Monthly Archives: November 2005

By Gosh, who is Cal Bigosh?

The other day I ate at Palomino downtown. After the meal they give you a small card with a saying on it (without any edible part, making it a rather disappointing fortune cookie substitution). The quotation I got was:

There are two keys to life:
1. Don’t tell everyone your secrets.

Cal Bigosh

OK, that’s kind of a cute, clever quotation, but who the heck is Cal Bigosh? Google, Yahoo and Wikipedia have all failed me, with no mention of a Cal or Calvin Bigosh. The Oshkosh B’Gosh history doesn’t mention anyone ever named B’Gosh or Bigosh. Who is this guy? Every other place I’ve found this quotation mentioned has always had it listed as anonymous. Did they just decide to make someone up?

The Myth of the Digital Divide and a $100 Laptop Holy Grail

MIT's $100 Laptop Recently the MIT Media Lab initiative, headed by Nicholas Negroponte, to develop a $100 laptop for distribution to schools and children in developing nations has been getting a lot of press. See articles at BBC News, the Wall Street Journal, and a Wired interview with Negroponte.

This $100 laptop initiative and similar projects before it, are based on the large assumption that there is a “digital divide” and that this divide needs to be closed by the UN, and those of us in first-world nations.

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Xbox 360 Impressions

I’ve had a chance to see and play a bit with the 360 that Andy brought home the other day, and here are a few of my initial thoughts…

  • The dashboard (OS) is great and gives you just about everything you could want out of a media center. Interface is a little less than intuitive at times, and the “friend is online” alerts appear over everything. Very annoying, but there’s probably an option to change that somewhere.
  • Backwards compatibility is a little rocky. Some texture artifacting here and there, and really bad mic sound in Halo 2. But connectivity to other players on regular Xbox Live worked just the same.
  • Games look great. Crisp, high-res, high polygon counts, yadda, yadda… But in Project Gotham Racing 3, the developers took too much advantage of the higher resolution and made some of the menu and UI text so small, it’s almost impossible to read on a normal TV. Wake-up, not everyone’s going to be playing on HD.
  • Gameplay? Well, that all depends on the game, so… same as any other console. Aside from more glitz, glamour, bells and whistles, the launch titles are more of the same.
  • Little things go a long way… Wireless controllers out of the box, power buttons on the controller, and standard USB ports to plug any device into the 360.
  • It’s loud. When the fan comes on, it sounds like it’s ready for lift-off.

Fun to have one around, but I don’t think I need my own just yet.

Analyt-oops: Send it back to Beta

For perhaps the first time, Google has been a victim of its own success and basically failed a product launch. Last week, they released Google Analytics, without the word “Beta” or any invite-only system in place. Like the other 200,000+ web site owners, I signed up and added the code to track my site stats. It politely informed me that the data would be collected and processed within 12 hours. More than a week later… nothing. Other people have reported varying degrees of success, but Google has now closed new signups and is still struggling to deal with the numbers. As they now say in their modified messaging when I log in:

The demand for Google Analytics surpassed even our highest expectations and as a result some customers may temporarily experience report-update delays. All data continues to be collected and no data has been lost. We are currently adding resources to ensure high-quality service. We apologize for any inconvenience.

If the enormously popular Google can’t even predict the success of one of their products (when every previous product has had fanatical following), then I would start to seriously wonder about Google’s sense of a larger vision. Or maybe Google should be a little more careful when rebranding and relaunching one of their acquisitions.

On that long-term vision note, last week’s article from Cringely, on Google’s fiber and data plans was quite interesting. Maybe they should have waited to have that infrastructure in place, before they decided to start processing traffic data for hundreds of thousands of websites. In the case of a stumble like this, we might see more people heading towards the smaller Mint or Measure Map.

And then there’s the question of what Google might do with all the Analytics data it collects. The obvious choice is to start tweaking it’s pagerank algorithms to give us better search results than ever. I have’t read the TOS closely, but I’m sure that option is in there. For that reason, I don’t think many large web companies will spring for the Analytics option, since it’s just too much information to be giving to a potential competitor. And right now, Google has poised itself to be a potential competitor to just about everything on the web.

Or, maybe you’re just tired of searching the web without getting anything back? Well, here’s an odd one: Blingo is a repackaging of Google’s search, but they offer up the chance at prizes with every search you make. Pyramid-scheme goodness, without any drawbacks?

It’s not all dark and drear

The dark wet winter is upon us in Seattle, but something else also happens during these months. After days of Seattle rain (on-and-off drizzle), we still get the meteorologist-defying day of sun and blue sky. Today was one of those days, where rain was predicted (as of yesterday), but there was none in sight. On these increasingly rare days, it is as if a giant burden is lifted from everyone’s shoulders and moods seem to be slightly better. I think maybe it’s the days of gloom that make Seattle-ites appreciate these types of days all the more, and perhaps why they have so much fun during the beautiful summers. Of course it’s frustrating that we can’t arrange to place these nice days on weekends only. We’ll have to make due with the randomness we get. But on days like this it’s certainly a blessing we don’t need to worry about umbrella pokings, wet commutes, or that seasonally-affected/barometric pressure-induced feeling of blah. At least until tomorrow.

Product Review – Shure E2c Earphones

Shure E2C I’ve been asked a half-dozen times in the past month how I like these earphones, and I always say how much I love them. The Shure E2C earphones are probably one of the best purchases I’ve made in the past year. I’ve ended up convincing two co-workers to get a pair and they both love them as well. So, this might be more of a product plug than a review, but I’ve told so many people these things, I might as well write it down.

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Equals Sign Bumper Stickers = Human Rights Campaign

I’d been wondering for a while, but have always forgotten to do the research to figure out what the yellow “=” sign bumper stickers were all about. I saw another while I was out running errands and remembered to check once I got home. They’re bumper/window stickers for the Human Rights Campaign, supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equal rights. Awesome! I hope I keep seeing more around, and not just in liberal Seattle.

I Could Have Made This

I was sitting in a bar with a friend recently, where there was quite a bit of art on the wall. One of the pieces of art happened to be a red canvas with words painted in black saying, “I could have done this.” After a few minutes of pondering it and laughing, my friend said:

I think 3/4 of all art is made for the beginners who see it and say, ‘I could have done this.’

Maybe it’s an exaggeration or oversimplification or a comment on how much of “art” is crap, but I know most of us have looked at a piece of art and thought, “Huh? I could have done this.” A plain blue canvas? A bunch of splatters? A blank, unpainted canvas?! I’d have to say that context is what helps establish these things in some sort of appreciable light, and it can be fascinating finding out why that canvas with a gash in it was so important. Should you have to know a historical context to appreciate art, or is that an unfortunate by-product of ego-driven art critics in the mid-twentieth century? And if anyone could have made it, then why do we give it so much importance? To that, I would respond, 1. You didn’t make it, and 2. You couldn’t have made it. The “I could have done this,” painting isn’t hanging in the MOMA or the Whitney, it’s hanging in some bar in Seattle, being chuckled at. Maybe this context is ironically perfect, or maybe the artist is just 40 years too late. It also has a $1000 price tag, which might be the real statement. Maybe now I’ll start looking at it with a moment’s consideration and think, “I could have bought that.”

The Tipping Point… Minus the Point

The Tipping PointIf this book is anything, it fits in this new genre of pop-science backed up by anecdotal evidence, written for pseudo-intellectual yuppies (myself included). It’s hard not to compare The Tipping Point to Steven Levitt’s Freakonomics because it or Gladwell’s other book, Blink, are almost always shelved near each other, recommended in the same places on Amazon, and they deal with some of the same issues. Where Freakonomics succeeded with some actual academic credentials, and clearly explained statistics, Gladwell’s book read like… well, a book written by a New Yorker writer. Anecdote followed by case-study, followed by personal experience. But…

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Run Like the Wind in NYC

It’s a beautiful 65-degree day in NYC and the winners of the race finished a couple hours ago with some insane times. But… my sister, Sarah, is now currently just over 20 miles through the New York City Marathon. Through the wonders of technology, I’ve been able to track her progress via the online race day tracker. I’ve heard the start is slow, because there are so many people and it’s hard to run at your own pace. Sarah’s 10k split was 48:46, which is close to an 8 minute mile. Not too bad. I certainly couldn’t keep up that pace for 6 miles, let alone 13 or 26. The half-marathon split was 1:42:51, which was a somewhat better pace than the start. At 20 miles her split is 2:38:55, which is an average of a 7:56 mile. Not bad at all. I can’t imagine running for 2 1/2 hours straight. Her projected finish time right now is 3:28:10, so she still has another hour to go. I think it’s great that I can sit at my computer and basically piece all of this together just from the numbers. She’s a trooper, and she definitely won’t quit. Go, Sarah!

UPDATE: She finished in 3347th place with a final time of 3:34:24 and a pace of 8:08 per mile overall! Out of about 40,000 people, that’s not bad at all! She was in 428th place out of the females, and 133rd place for her age.

Another interesting tidbit is “Net time” which I had to do some research to figure out. Sarah’s Net time was 3:33:07. Official time keeping starts when the starting gun goes off, but Net time starts when you actually cross the starting line. It just goes to show how many people run this thing when it takes a minute and a half to even get across the starting line!

Recent Diversions

Television: I’m telling you, Lost really is as good as people say. I only started watching at the very end of the first season and into the second, but I’m now back at the beginning playing catch up. So good, but yes the compounding twist-with-no-payoff gets a little frustrating.

Make: Two great features in the current issue of Make magazine: Circuit Bending and VJing 101 (unfortunately no articles, just external reference links available online)

Apple: I ordered a highly discounted last-rev 15″ PowerBook 1.67 ghz as a nice step up from my aging 12″ (which I’ll probably sell off). This should tide me over for another year or two before I dive in and break the bank for a swanky new Intel-powered Mac desktop. I wonder if they’ll have 30″ iMac’s by then.

Music: Finally got around to borrowing a copy of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and had one of those, “So that’s who this is!” moments, since I’d been hearing them on KEXP a ton in the past month. Highly recommended.

Tomorrow: Is World Usability Day! Celebrate by, um… using something.