Monday, August 25, 2008

I know these people!

It still surprises me when I see people I know on TV. This time, a two-for-one! I was watching an old episode of Nova Science Now that featured two people I knew from back at MIT. First, they had a spot on robots that prominently featured Cynthia Breazeal from the Media Lab. Back as an undergraduate, I worked on a study to determine emotions of certain robotic facial features for her group.

Then just a few minutes later in the show, a face I knew I recognized came up. It was Josh Sosin, once a history professor at MIT and the faculty adviser to Student House for a year. Apparently, he's off studying ancient greek texts in egypt now.

Yay for Nova!


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Crazy busy weekend...

It's been a non-stop weekend over here, but a very fun one too! Yesterday I had a bunch of papers to review for the Urban, Community, and Social Applications of Networked Sensing Systems workshop. So I took the train up to Evanston and sat around Panera for a bit reading and reviewing. It was actually a very nice and peaceful afternoon. Later on, I made it back to Palatine in time to meet up with Elizabeth and Jack at the Palatine Street Fest, a little neighborhood festival right down the street from me by the train station. They had a really horrible band playing that was trying to do magic while they played rock songs. Their whole first song was the lyrics "Welcome to the show" again and again. No one clapped. We left...

Today began with a 3k race through my neighborhood as a part of this weekend-long street festival. I decided to see how well all this training has been going, so I just gunned it and ran a very solid race. I came in 40th place which is pretty amazing, with a time of 13:50. That's 7:24/mile which as most of your know is *way* faster than my normal pace. So I was happy :) Some iPhone code writing this afternoon and another 8 miles of running to finish out the week at 22 followed. Then a wonderful close to the weekend, going to see Mike and Joe play at Street Fest with a friend from grade school. For those not from the midwest, these guys are pretty much *the* cover band out here and do a terrific job on everything from Michael Jackson to Green Day. It was a great show! But now I'm exhausted and am about to crash and watch the closing to the olympics. Hope you all had wonderful weekends!


Friday, August 22, 2008


Anyone who has been around me lately can probably sense that I've been a bit stressed this past month or so. It's no one thing, just a lot of responsibilities I'm juggling with work, volunteering, and trying to get in fairly long runs with the 1/2 marathon just a few weeks away. It's been a stressful time and I'm sorry for mostly disappearing or not having much patience. Work has been extremely busy lately and I'm probably doing the job of 3 people or so and cranking out ~600 lines of code each morning for one project while trying to stay on top of two other projects in the afternoons.

Hopefully things will lighten up soon and things will be more normal (which is still pretty busy for me!). The running continues straight through to January though, so there's no let up there. I'm getting excited about the Disney Marathon though!! I'm staying at the Contemporary and I can take the monorail to the start of the race which is just awesome :)


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

why the nbc olympics video website is horrible...

I didn't DVR the olympics this evening, so I missed Usain Bolt's amazing 200m race. No problem I think, I'll just go online and watch it! So off to to find for "usain bolt" - no videos from this olympics. Search for "track and field" - nothing from the 200m race, but a video of the 100m race I already saw the other night. Search for "recent" - nothing from the 200m race. Page through the "highlights" - nothing. There seems to be no way to find this video.

So I go over to YouTube. There are search results for "Usain Bolt 200m" but none of the links to any of the real video are clickable. I hear that NBC is forcing Google to remove the links to these videos.

I've also heard that NBC is not posting the video of the race to their own website now until all timezones get the broadcast tonight.

NBC, if you want us to watch the olympics online with your horrible website, at least let us actually watch the big events of the games!!

Edit: It's posted now. Still not terribly easy to find, but it's buried a few rows down under "Track and field"


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Location, Location, Location

So I knew that one of the features of the iPhone that I would enjoy the most would be the location services. The iPhone is really the first mobile phone out there that makes location such a central focus of the device and included with many of the native applications that ship with the phone. A lot of it has been talked about in the ubicomp research community for years and years, but it's finally all come out in one package.

Things I enjoy the most:
1) Google maps - click the location button and it zooms into your cell tower area, wait 10 seconds more, and it's pinpointed you on the map. Get directions and click the location button again, and the little dot follows you along your route. Simple, beautiful.
2) Geotagging of photos - take a picture, allow access to location, get a picture with lat,long in the exif headers! So wonderful!
3) Yelp - a 3rd party app, get lists of nearby restaurants, bars, coffee shops, etc. with one touch. Automatically gets your location and creates the list, complete with reviews from
4) Weather - the weatherbug app can center on your location and get you forecasts and live radar for wherever you are.

The mobile phone is not just another computer. It's a device for information and social access *in* the world. Which means location is often a large part of what you're experiencing. From getting places, sharing photos from those places, finding more about the place where you are, and making sure you stay dry this is just the tip of the iceburg for location access on mobile devices. All of this is possible because location is such a core part of the platform. Any application can get it with just a simple call. (another app that I didn't mention because I don't have it installed yet is loopt which lets you see where your friends are - very useful for microcoordination tasks in meeting up).



The Bush administration pisses me off more and more every day. They are currently trying to redefine the term "abortion" to include birth control which means that laws which allow workers to refuse abortion would now apply to distributing birth control. And they are doing it in some sneaky way called a "rule change" that doesn't need congressional approval. Such that they can say it and it is so. alerted me to this fact, and if this issue matters to you, you should go here to be added to their petition.


The draft regulation would define birth control as could deny access to critical family planning for women across the country.—Letter signed by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and 26 other senators.2

The draft rule could void laws in 27 states that require insurance companies to provide birth control coverage for women requesting it [and] laws in 14 states requiring that rape victims receive counseling and access to emergency, day-after contraceptives.—Houston Chronicle editorial3

The administration needs to stop playing word games with women's health and state clearly they will reject any regulations that will undermine women's access to basic health care.—Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.4

[It's] a spectacular act of complicity with the religious right... —RH Reality Check, Information and Analysis for Reproductive Health5

The birth control pill, the IUD, and emergency contraception might all become unavailable—illegal—as a result.—Brigid Riley, executive director of a Minnesota teen pregnancy prevention organization6


"If the administration goes through with this draft proposal, it will launch a dangerous assault on women's health," said Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., calling on President Bush to "reject this policy."



Many of you by now have seen the front page article in this past Sunday's Tribune about carbon use and online carbon calculators. About a week ago, a reporter from the trib contacted me after seeing a blog post about carbon calculators that I had posted back in may. He wanted to talk about the differences in calculation as well as how I've managed to offset for all of my air travel which is about 70% of my total carbon use. Anyway, the article was ok. I wish it had focused more on land use than just carbon as land use is also a big issue, especially as more of the world goes to meat-based diets (and seen by the latest food crisis). Also, it seems like it's easy to read the article as saying, look at all of these things Frank does to save carbon output, but he's still average in terms of carbon output - these things don't do much. But in reality, they have let me travel 40,000 miles a year by plane and still have an "average" footprint. Also, I had no idea that I'd be so central to the article :)


Saturday, August 09, 2008


I've been glued to the olympics since the opening ceremonies last night. There's just something so addictive about it. For those who didn't watch the opening, go watch it now! It was just so amazing both what they did technologically (1/4 mile long video screen around the top of the stadium, 500' long LED screen on the floor), and with people (the movable type boxes!). Seriously, go watch it now! :)

Then this morning I was watching the cycling event and really missing Beijing. They rode through central beijing, past the forbidden city, up to badaling by the great wall. All places I know well from my trips to Beijing. It really would have been fun to go out there for the games...


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

wet at wrigley...

Last night my dad and I went down to Wrigley for the Cubs game. It had been raining a bit during the day, but had stopped and turned quite nice outside by mid-afternoon. And it stayed lovely for the first 5 innings or so. And then the thunder and lightning came, then the rain, and then the tornado watch!

At first it wasn't very bad. They made an announcement to seek shelter because of severe weather, but we were fairly comfortable where we were sitting, and we were down in terrace reserved under the upper deck so we felt safe and dry. But then the 70 MPH winds kicked up and brought the rain in sideways and upways and all over the place. It was pretty crazy for about 15 minutes or so with tornado sirens blaring and crazy winds. We just stayed in our seats with a bunch of other people and eventually it passed and they started playing baseball again about 2 hours later.

After about 2 more innings (and the 7th inning stretch with about 6,000 people left in the stadium) the rain returned. There was lightning all around us, and eventually some hit the upper deck on the 3rd base side, right above us. The players all started sprinting for cover and the game was called. It was a bit of an adventure back to the el with lightning strikes all around us, but we made it back safely.

Sadly, through all of that, the Cubs lost 2-0 to Houston. Defintely a game I won't forget though!

The Trib has a nice story on the game and I posted some videos on Flickr of the sirens after the rain died down a bit to get my phone out.


Friday, August 01, 2008

3D Printing on the cheap!

So most readers of this blog know that I'm in love with 3D printing. It's amazing! But I definitely don't have a daily need to be making stuff, which is why this interested me so much. It's so simple. It's a company that takes your design, prints it, and sends it to you. Sure it takes 10 days, so it's not the instant gratification of seeing it built before your eyes, but still, pretty darn awesome!