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March 2004 archives

March 31, 2004

when it rains...

...it pours. in addition to a social networking service (orkut) and personalized search, Google has also launched Gmail, it's own mail service -- including 1GB(!) of storage for free. They're in testing phase, though, so you can't just walk up and get an account yet.... unless you know the right people I guess. Anyway, looks to me like Google's engaging a new front in the search wars.

NOTE: In the comments below, bp points out that I may have fallen victim to an April Fool's trick. (but it was March 31, I says to myself). If so, my hat is off to Google for pulling a great one. Other victims would include ZDNet, New Scientist, c|net, the New York Times, and my local television news. How delightful! And in the case that it's for real, just the possibility of the hoax is a brilliant marketing device. Here's google's irreverent press release, dated April 1.

Posted by jheer at 11:08 PM | Comments (7)


Here's a new product for Carter's manifesto: passport

Somehow, it's not so funny anymore.

Posted by jheer at 10:50 PM | Comments (0)

a manifesto


Posted by jheer at 10:43 PM | Comments (1)

eternal sunshine

Last night some scotts and i went out to see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I'm a big fan of Charlie Kaufmann (the screenwriter), whose other noteworthy works include Being John Malkovich and Adaptation. I was already familiar with his loopy, often self-referential psychological themes, so they didn't carry the novelty that I felt in some of his earlier films, but still very clever and entertaining, and with a bit more heart this time around. Anyone who has ever felt socially awkward can likely appreciate the hyperbolic lens he brings to these things...

The most moving part about watching the movie, though, was my own personal reactions to it. As you travel back through the memories of Carrey's character I couldn't help but start to reflect on my own host of memories from the last 24+ years. All the recessed memories that barely come out to the surface... sights, sounds, and smells that evoke these buried experiences, and people who, through distance or estrangement, are more real to me now as characters in my mind than they are as actual people. How realistic are the models our mind constructs of our friends, lovers, and acquaintances... aren't most of our friends' behaviors wholly predictable to us?

Furthermore, Kate Winslet's character was, to me, an interesting juxtaposition of personality traits of women (mostly high school intimates of one form or another) I once knew many years ago. Seeing them mixed together into an interpolated, adult persona sent my mind a-resonating -- the what ifs, what nots, and what have you's. Of course, it doesn't hurt either that Winslet is quite attractive, regardless of the hue of her hair dye.

So anyway, if you like interesting psychological loopiness with humor to boot (and an amazing 20 minute, falling in love introduction), check it out. Now it's on to the Ladykillers... I gotta keep up with those Coen brothers, too.

Posted by jheer at 05:07 PM | Comments (0)

March 29, 2004

yes, kaltix

kwc notes that Google labs has launched a new personalized search feature and asks if it is the result of Google's acquisition of Kaltix. Indeed, it looks eerily familiar to a very cool demo I saw not long ago.

While manually setting up your own profile through a bunch of check boxes is a bit cumbersome, I have to give props to the Google/Kaltix folks for not requiring any login, or transfer of name, e-mail, etc, to use the service. I believe that Outride (another personalization firm acquired by Google) used user's web bookmarks and observed surfing behavior to seed personalization rankings, but Google has (wisely) decided to sidestep those privacy/trust issues for now. Not that determined corporations can't infer all sorts of things using cookies, but it's still a nice touch.

We'll see how long this stays a labs project, and what Google does if and when it decides to give these features official status. Regardless, it's great to see this stuff out in use and find out how people react to it. It should be also interesting to see if any good stories regarding unexpected 'personalized' search results start surfacing. (Will ad words eventually be personalized, too? I can imagine the Google version of the famous "Will you marry me?" stunt)

Elsewhere, the Mercury News is running a story about Google's new offering, and a VC that helped fund Outride brings another perspective.

Posted by jheer at 08:42 PM | Comments (1)


I could have told you this, but I'm glad there's a quiz to confirm it...

You are a sneaky Ninja.
We don't even know you're there...
before it's too late!

Monkey, Ninja, Pirate, Robot?
brought to you by Quizilla

Posted by jheer at 08:23 PM | Comments (0)

March 21, 2004

missed connections

Yesterday in San Francisco a most enticing event was held: the Whiskies of the World Expo. I was prepared, too, after consuming the knowledge imparted to me by perhaps the greatest Christmas gift ever given to me by my mom. And I missed it. I was supposed to hang out with an old friend who was coming through town. When she called me around 9pm to announce she was only in Redding, I realized I had thrown my evening away. D'oh!

So if anyone wants to hold their own mini-expo, I want to be involved. Besides, this week is spring break, and unlike some of my jet-setting friends, I'm staying behind to work on my master's thesis so I can escape to Europe with a clear conscience come late April. The upshot is that I'm around and have more free time than usual this week, so if you're around and doing anything exciting, drop me a line! I'll bring the whisky.

Posted by jheer at 11:08 AM | Comments (2)

March 20, 2004

electron band structure, my ass

Electron Band Structure In Germanium, My Ass

A cogent critique of experimental physics that had my material science roommates (who research germanium, of all things) in stitches. The most insightful line: This relation between temperature and resistivity can be shown to be exponential in certain temperature regimes by waving your hands and chanting "to first order". Interestingly, it appears this was written by the same person responsible for that very cool UIST paper from 2001 on techiques for creating custom interpolated clip art.

Posted by jheer at 10:15 AM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2004


slappin' the bassMy little bro is on his way to rockstardom. His band, tripdavon, just released their first single on their website. Also, go to the "Bio" section of their site and click on the name "Dave Heer" to watch my bro get down on his bass. Can't wait until they book a show up here in the bay area.

Posted by jheer at 10:48 PM | Comments (0)

gardens and discs

Whether hanging out with friends or giving campus tours to prospective grad students, I've been asked multiple times recently if I ever get tired of Berkeley. In some cases, it was implicit in the asking of the question that the people assumed this was an expected thing, especially in my case. After all, I did my undergrad here before returning for years of graduate schooling. But no, this place has become home, and when I ever start to feel tired with it, it's only because I've started taking it for granted. Fortunately, this wonderful weather we've been having brings plenty of opportunities to appreciate one's environment.

Yesterday I rode my bike over to Tilden park's botanical gardens, where I met up with some friends. Absolutely amazing. The gardens, of course, are gorgeous, as was the entire ride in and out of the park. Redwood trees, lush grass, ponds, creeks, and even a view of what the east bay looked like before being overrun with European plants. I've become completely spoiled by living in an active urban environment on one side of the hill, and then having regional parks (almost literally) in my backyard... no car required.

Then today I headed out with some buddies to play disc golf on the Berkeley campus. I don't make it around to the different regions of campus nearly enough anymore... the creeks, groves, fields and diverse architecture are one of the many reasons I love Berkeley. A definite draw in comparison to the homogeneous look and feel of another prestigious bay area university that will remain unnamed. There was even a movie crew filming on campus today... The name of the film is "Bee Season"... apparently Richard Gere was spotted walking around campus. Unfortunately, the only person we saw was a stagehand who felt the need to be a jackass. I guess some people just can't hang with the disc golf.

Posted by jheer at 10:42 PM | Comments (1)

user study

I've been working like a dog trying to get my master's work (a user interface toolkit for interactive graph visualization) wrapped up before I head out to Europe in April. Among other things, this has put quite the damper on the free cycles available for things like blogging, but the work is really starting to shape up. I've given talks on the work to groups at both Berkeley and PARC and have received some great feedback.

As a colleague of mine has taken to saying, "a toolkit is software where the interface is an API." So now I'm launching a user study to test the API of the toolkit by sitting programmers down and observing them build applications with it. So..... here comes the pitch..... If you're familiar with the Java programming language, have built Java Swing or AWT user interfaces, and (preferably) are comfortable with the Eclipse integrated development environment, please consider participating in my study. The study is being held at UC Berkeley and will last about an hour and forty-five minutes. Not only will you get exposure to an open-source software toolkit that may be useful to you, you will also be compensated for your time. Just e-mail me if you're interested.

Posted by jheer at 10:04 PM | Comments (1)

March 01, 2004

rove ho

i love karl rove is political commentary as obsessive blogging, just featured as a yahoo pick of the week. I particularly enjoyed the Valentine's Day poetry:

Roses are red
Like Dick Cheney's heart
'Cept where docs subbed in
A metallic part

Roses are red
As are most Southern states
Cousins who marry
Determine our fates

Roses are red
Like the terror alert
Stay crap-your-pants scared
And no one gets hurt

Posted by jheer at 03:16 PM | Comments (0)