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July 2004 archives

July 30, 2004

news round up

So I watched Kerry's speech last night, flipping between multiple news channels as I did so, picking up the spin applied by different networks. Sadly, after listening to William Kristol's knee-jerk diminution, all Fox News had to give me was a discussion of the balloons and confetti, and some talk about how the Democrats had finally caught up to the Republicans in terms of convention organization. (update: I was reading the Chronicle and learned that the convention manager's obsession with balloons and confetti may net CNN an FCC fine). God forbid one actually discusses the issues.

So out of curiousity I thought I would run through the major news outlets this morning to see what the top stories are. Predictably, Salon is running an analysis of Kerry's speech, as is the National Review, each from their respective slants (I think I prefer the "honesty" inherent in openly biased reporting). CNN, ABC, NBC, and CBS are all running stories on the Kerry campaign with prominent links to convention highlights. Most are also running prominent stories on Bush's new campaigning efforts in light of the Democratic convention. Fox News, on the other hand, has a giant picture of Bush, and transcripts of a Bush speech, convention links then relatively buried under "related news". So the day after the Republican convention I guess we should all expect a giant picture of Kerry on the campaign trail, no?

And while we work ourselves up over here, across the pond the BBC news headline is about the UN response to the humanitarian tragedy in Darfur, Sudan. The US presidential campaigns get second listing.

Posted by jheer at 11:01 AM | Comments (1)

July 29, 2004

video politics

Will Ferrell as GWB (via metafilter)

Bush and Kerry duet (via captain airplane)

A little fun and games amidst the convention excitement, not to mention a nice distraction from work.

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

July 27, 2004

hunting and politics

Tonight I went down to the Roxie and saw The Hunting of the President, a documentary about the "ten year campaign to destroy Bill Clinton," based on the book by Joe Conason and Gene Lyons.

At first I was a little worried, as some over-zealous visual montages and ominous soundtracks made me wonder what the next 90 minutes held in store for me. Fortunately the film settled down (or perhaps I acclimated to it?) and then stepped through some interesting perspectives on the right's efforts to bring down the Clintons. While most of us know that way too much money and time was wasted on an unmaterialized financial scandal, in the end disrupting our democracy to parade some extra-marital fellatio, I for one was not familiar with all the strange peripheral characters involved in the tale. Accuse me of being a west coast elitist, but Arkansas has some pretty crazy cats. My favorite in the film is Larry Case, a detective (of sorts), who, backed by right-wing patrons, travels around recording various conversations trying to dig up (mostly sexual) dirt on President Clinton. And for some reason he eerily reminds me of Larry Flynt. I also learned that Ann Coulter is an elf -- who knew?

I guess I never quite understood the extreme, and in many cases irrational, hatred of the Clintons. And though I suppose many on the right may feel the same way about today's anti-Bush sentiment, I feel that (Fahrenheit 9/11 notwithstanding) today's rancor is rooted much more in policy than personality. I wasn't much of a Clinton fan during my youth, but the past four years have created a nostalgia in me that I would not have thought possible.

So go grab some 90's nostalgia while you can. Outfoxed will be playing here in a week, so then we can all revel in the glorious present.

Posted by jheer at 11:10 PM | Comments (0)

July 23, 2004

eye contact

Since moving to SF, I haven't yet procured a parking permit, so I've been parking my car away from my neighborhood, where I can find permit-free parking. This has the benefit of letting me leave my car somewhere for a week without having to move it, and leaves my car far enough away such that is helps me reduce the amount of driving I do. It also gives me the chance to take some nice walks and/or jogs up and down the hills of San Francisco. After moving my car today, I was walking down upper market, thinking about the qualitative research methods class I took last semester, so thought I'd try a simple experiment.

For everyone I saw as I walked down the sidewalk, either other folks walking or people in nearby stores, I would try to make eye contact just to see how people would respond. I tried to keep my face very neutral, with a slight smile, so as to be basically friendly but not overly inviting. I then just tried to keep a tally of reaction types as I walked (a total of about 7 city blocks).

The vast majority of folks struck me as "commuters": other people walking on the sidewalk apparently trying to get somewhere. About 80% of them were not looking around, and did not even notice my sweeping gaze, let alone react to it. A few couples also passed by, with their attention locked solely on each other. About another 15% or so of walkers would see my eyes and immediately look away. The remaining folks would meet my gaze, let the connection linger for a moment, and then hit a natural break. For the most part such exchanges matched the friendly/neutral disposition I was trying to project - it felt to me primarily as a mutual acknowledgement of each other's presence.

The only real uncomfortable reaction was from a rather large man walking with an attractive woman, both of whom looked to be in their mid to late twenties. I looked to the lady first (possibly my mistake), but she was looking off elsewhere. I then looked at the man, and soon found his gaze baring directly down on mine. I couldn't read the reaction - it wasn't overtly hostile but it was anything but friendly. Was it a defensive instinct due to the woman, old-fashioned machismo, or just discomfort from some stranger looking you right in the eye?

Also interesting were the folks sitting or standing along the street. Unlike the commuters, they weren't going somewhere, they already were somewhere. While some where engaged in an activity such as having a conversation or reading a newspaper, others were just watching the street. Most of these folks would find my eye contact and immediately look away, but then I would catch them looking back, again breaking away once they saw my gaze was still there. I interpreted this in most cases as a desire to watch without being accountable for it. That is, to watch with impunity. That's fine by me. It's why I love sunglasses.

Posted by jheer at 10:57 AM | Comments (1)

kidnapping via orkut

I just got a somewhat disturbing message through a friend. Though unsubstantiated, the story is that a college student from a well-to-do family in Sao Paulo, Brazil was kidnapped and police claim that the kidnappers knew just about everything about her - her friends, her appearance, and where she was going to be - by reading her profile on orkut.

I won't repost the messages here (one in English, the other in Portuguese), as they include names and identifying details. Apparently there is an orkut account (now deleted) with a name matching the victim. I don't know if the story is true... for example, I don't know how the police would know that the kidnappers used orkut (correlated evidence perhaps), and I can't find any mention of the story or principals on the web. Still, it is certainly possible that the pseudo-public disclosure people engage in on social networking sites could come back to hurt them. I can imagine location-broadcasting services (e.g. tell me where my friends are), especially in the hands of younger children, causing even bigger problems.

Posted by jheer at 10:33 AM | Comments (0)

July 21, 2004

talkin' bout the street

This past Friday I had the pleasure of attending StreetTalk, a one-day workshop on urban-centered computing organized by Eric Paulos of Intel Research Berkeley. Though the basic premise is to find new and compelling ways of using digital technology to enhance/enrich/change urban life, a wide array of viewpoints were presented, including largely non-computational ones.

I stashed my notes in meta's bag at the end of the day, and have waited too long now to retrieve them, so I'm going to try to do this from memory for now... Here were some of the highlights.

  • Dennis Crowley showed off his system dodgeball, which allows you to broadcast your location so your friends can find you. I've since signed up for the service, and it's interesting receiving location messages about your friends. As my friends seem to be using the system judiciously, no resulting awkward social situations have surfaced... yet.
  • Cassidy Curtis spoke about his excellent graffiti archaelogy project. I spoke with him briefly at the end of the day, and got to learn more about his process of documenting various actual and potential graffiti sites as well as his encounters with graffiti artists and cultures.
  • Jack Napier taught us how to improve the urban landscape through billboard liberation. Already an Adbusters fan, needless to say I was enthralled.
  • Anne Galloway took the stage to dispel any digital utopianism left amongst attendees. While techno-utopianism is an undercurrent of much of the human-computer interaction field, the ubiquitous computing literature is particularly full of unexamined (and, imho, in many (most?) cases unwarranted) optimism. Hopefully Anne's polemic helped kill that good and dead for those in attendance, promoting a balanced, critical perspective.
  • Paul Dourish speaks eloquently, insightfully, and quickly. His lesson (among others) - don't forget that cities are living things subject to continual interpretation and negotiation. Beware of succumbing to the temptations of positivist modeling in your urban computing endeavors.
  • Peter Lunenfeld pointed us all towards the work of Jane Jacobs as a foundation for further urban-centered work. He argued that her work should be as pivotal to these endeavors as Christopher Alexander's work on design patterns has been to the software engineering community.

Afterwards we went to Rx Gallery in San Francisco to socialize. Some of us got more social than others.

Posted by jheer at 07:19 PM | Comments (1)

July 09, 2004


alright, ever since I got back from Europe I've been excessively lazy at posting blog entries. So for the five or so people out there who still even look at this page, thanks for coming. Things have been crazy... I moved from Berkeley to my new home in the Mission District of SF, have been buried in work in a "pre-startup" company - a little summer experiment about which more should surface later, and have had more social engagements in the last month than in the entire three months before I left for Europe. So where does that leave me? Excited, exhausted, and with one too many mid-week hangovers.

Throughout it all, fun things have been afoot...

  • All my conference talks in Europe went really well. While having the A/V fail on me during my big CHI talk was truly a blast (for this paper, on designing directive systems, or, machines that tell you what to do), my workshop talk at AVI on invisible interfaces was the most fun. It was a bit unnerving to get up in front of a bunch of more-or-less ardent computer scientists and (1) not talk about computer science, but rather a bunch of philosophy, psychology, and sociology, and (2) tell them that the way they conceive their work may be flawed. Fortunately it went over well, and great comments and debates of various types ensued. I guess it's hard to be disagreeable in an abundance of wine.
  • My infovis class project, Vizster, a visualization of friendster networks, was treated to two very nice blog entries by Sean and danah, so that when I got back from Europe there were over 500 Google hits (it's now down to under 200) in at least a dozen languages. I should get around to releasing something by the end of the summer...
  • My visualization toolkit, prefuse, didn't quite get accepted to the UIST conference, but has generated a lot of interest. Mucho thanks to all those out there playing with it and providing feedback. And for those who haven't seen it, check out the video (it's 30MB and requires the DivX codec). And why the name "prefuse"? Since UI toolkits in Java have musical themes (Swing, Jazz, etc), I named it in honor of the musician who provided the soundtrack for much of the coding.
  • I will no longer get to enjoy my living room view of the bay. However, one of my former roommates is moving into the house next door to the old one, so I'll have to crash his living room instead.
  • What else? Was in Los Angeles for the 4th... for a loft party in downtown, pool side mansion party in Glendale, hipster party back in LA (and where, though he apparently doesn't check his voicemail, I got to randomly run into the greatest artist I know), and then a complete fireworks immersion in Long Beach.

Next on the docket, two black belt promotions at my aikido dojo this weekend, and a sure-to-be-fascinating workshop on urban computing next week. And, if I can finally get my act in gear, maybe even some regular blog posts. But don't hold me to that.

Posted by jheer at 03:44 PM | Comments (0)

i am a golden god

So I was passing by danah's blog and saw a link to yet another personality test. So I took it and this is what I got... file it under hubris.

You are a WRCL--Wacky Rational Constructive Leader. This makes you a golden god. People gravitate to you, and you make them feel good. You are smart, charismatic, and interesting. You may be too sensitive to others reactions, especially criticism. Your self-opinion and mood depends greatly on those around you.

You think fast and have a smart mouth, is a hoot to your friends and razorwire to your enemies. You hold a grudge like a brass ring. You crackle.

Although you have a leader's personality, you often choose not to lead, as leaders stray too far from their audience. You probably weren't very popular in high school--the joke's on them!

You may be a rock star.

Golden god, huh? Well, I am wearing a yellow t-shirt today.

Posted by jheer at 02:48 PM | Comments (1)