Monday, November 30, 2009

Inspirational documentary of the month: Food, Inc.

First came An Inconvenient Truth, which turned me into a tree-hugging, earth-loving hippie for a couple of years.  And then I changed my mind and pondered making my own documentary entitled "So Spring Comes a Little Earlier Each Year: What's So Bad About That?".*

Then I saw Sicko, and jumped on the universal health care bandwagon.  Yeah, I've pretty much done a "John Kerry" 180-degree flip-flop on that one.  While I definitely like the idea of covering as many people as possible (I'm a softie for taking care of the people), Tim convinced me that health insurance should basically not be treated differently from car insurance, home insurance, or any other type of disaster insurance.  I could go on more about this, but that's out of scope for this blog entry.

Now, it's about the food we eat.  This topic was first broached by King Corn, which documented the industrialization of corn, how it has killed the family farm, and how corn now permeates the majority of the food we eat.  Food, Inc., further, "examines large-scale agricultural food production in the United States, concluding that the meat and vegetables produced by this type of economic enterprise leads to inexpensive but unhealthy and environmentally-harmful food" (description stolen from the linked Wikipedia article because I'm too unoriginal to come up with a better one).

Food, Inc. is definitely a movie worth seeing, if only to raise awareness and/or stimulate discussion.  My first instinct after seeing it is to become a vegetarian or only eat organic produce.  But I've had this reaction before, and it didn't last very long.  It seems that the lifestyle that I prefer (often on the go, never cooking for myself) is not very compatible with this choice.  And then there's the worry (briefly dismissed by one of the organic farmers in the movie) of whether we could feed everybody if the system shifted to organic policy.  I have some other solutions to the overpopulation problem that drives this concern, but I fear those are too radical for dissemination.

In any case, I invite anyone who has not seen this movie to do so.  Afterward (or if you've seen it already), you can engage me in rational discourse to convince me that I am overreacting, or underreacting, to it.

* - I should confess that I'm still a bit of an environmental hippie, but not for the same reasons.  In general, I think reusing, reducing, and recycling is a good thing, but a lot of my motivations are more financial these days (even though I still pay more for electricity), as opposed to attempting to save the world from impending doom.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Here at the Blog, we rarely take time go to get in touch with our inner feelings.  This is no exception to that generalization.

about:me is a Firefox add-on that "provides a fun way to see personalized patterns in browser usage, including trends in browsing history and download activity".  Some of you fellow nerds might notice that the name is a clever play on the about: URI scheme used in many web browsers.

I installed this add-on a few months ago, but rarely remember about it.  Of course, when you run out of ways to procrastinate instead of writing that philosophy paper, you remember all sorts of neat things that "deserve" to be blogged about.

So what truths has about:me revealed about my surfing habits on my main home computer?  You can see the results directly below (click to enlarge):

For one, I am in denial about how much I use Facebook.  It seems that I can't go around anymore saying condescendingly, "Oh, no.  I *only* get on Facebook whenever someone does something on my wall or sends me a message."  The same seems to go for OkCupid, though to a far lesser extent.

Other than that, the sites listed are for the most part what I would expect.  Google (and its various subdomains), Wikipedia, GMail (which is broken out from Google for some reason), (because I obsessively want to view the charts about my recently listened music), and ESPN Soccernet are all mainstays in my Internet routine.  I'm a little surprised to see CNET, YouTube, and Blogger on there - I definitely use those sites fairly frequently, but I don't feel like I'm on them *that* often.  The one notable absence, though, is Yahoo!.  I feel like a check my Y!Mail often enough for it to beat out a few of the sites listed.

In addition to the sites I browse, the times at which I browse are also interesting, though there are no real surprises there.  I apparently hit the web hard sometime around 9 PM after a long day of doing whatever I do in the "real" world.  It's not unusual for me to still be surfing up until 1, or even 2, in the morning.  I'm guessing that the daytime surfing is mostly from weekend activities, when I'm not at work/school/soccer.  The graph also confirms that the period between about 4 and 7 AM pretty much does not exist to me.

So there you have it...a little insight into Obi.  But because it's somehow tech related, that's probably about the most you're gonna get here.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Join the Wave!

LifeHacker had another Google Wave donation thread today, and I was fortunate enough to score an invitation (thanks Daniel!).  Now it's my turn to share.  I originally had 8 invitations to give out, and I've sent out 3 so far.  If you would like an invitation, let me know by commenting or by sending me a message.  If you don't know what Wave is, you can find out all about it here.

I honestly don't think Google Wave will be terribly useful in my daily life, but it definitely has a cool factor.  Maybe once some friends join up and start collaborating I'll see things differently.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Google Location History - my new favorite thing.

First there was Google Latitude, which allows you to share your location with your friends using your cellphone's GPS and your data plan that connects you to that nebulous interweb thing.  This seems to draw polarizing opinions from people, as some think it is the coolest thing since sliced bread, while the paranoid among us think this is tantamount to life in Orwell's Oceania (despite the fact that you have control of who can see your location data, and to what level).

Latitude now has a feature called Google Location History, where Google tracks and maintains a history of your location in your account.  The coolest part is that you can play it back like a movie.  Here's where I went today:

You can see that I got a late start to my day, and that I made trips to City Hall (where my attempts to renew my driver's license and license plates resulted in epic failure on both counts...but I'll leave my complaints of government incompetence for another post), Qdoba (free burrito!), and the dry cleaner before heading in to work.  Curiously, my GPS triangulation is not perfectly consistent throughout the day, as I appear to have made a dash to the airport at some point even though I'm pretty sure my phone stayed in my stationary car the whole day...

This was a bit of an accidental discovery, as I normally do not keep my location shared after I'm done using Google Maps on my phone. However, I left it shared last night while I was trying to get Google Location Alerts to work with Steve.  Location Alerts is another cool feature, where Google will send you a message when you come within proximity of a friend on Latitude.  Unfortunately, I have yet to succeed in causing an alert despite two attempts while sitting next to or across from a friend.

Anyway, if you are not one of those privacy advocates who think this is the work of Big Brother, friend me up on Latitude.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Who else loves Tim Lincecum's hair?

So it was announced today that Tim Lincecum barely beat out the two Cardinals aces for the NL Cy Young award in what was one of the closest votes in history.  I'm not that big a baseball fan anymore, but those three pitchers (Lincecum, Adam Wainwright, and Chris Carpenter) have to be three of my favorites in the game.  Two of them are obviously so, because they play for my hometown team...and they're really good.

Lincecum, though, has other interesting characteristics.  By complete coincidence, I happened to catch his first career MLB start on May 6, 2007.  I'm not even sure why I watched that ESPN Sunday Night Game between the Giants and Phillies, because by that time I had already lost most of my interest in baseball, which had peaked during the golden days of fantasy baseball in college and a little after.  In any case, I remember being impressed by the Giants starter, who had a shaky first inning debut but ended up striking out 3.  He was a young guy of relatively slight build (for a pitcher anyway), and he had some lights-out stuff.  In my mind, he immediately drew comparisons to Roy Oswalt.

Anyway, it's about two-and-a-half years later, and that kid has two Cy Young awards to his name.  Since that day, I've seen Lincecum pitch in person - I was lucky enough to draw his starting position in the rotation when I went to a Giants-A's game in San Francisco earlier this summer (June 12).  He didn't absolutely dominate that day, but he tossed a complete game without giving up any runs.

So when it came time to decide who to root for in the Cy Young race, I had a tough time choosing.  I figured that one of the Cardinals would get it, since the Giants didn't do very well this year and Lincecum had a low win total.  But between the two Cards pitchers, I couldn't pick either - Wainwright tossed more innings and had more wins, but Carpenter had mostly better statistics otherwise.  I was pretty surprised to learn that Lincecum took the award, but in a way I way was glad.  It would have been nice for a Cardinal to win it, but I couldn't choose one over the other.  And my favorite pitcher over the last couple of years did win after all.

Oh, and did I mention how awesome his hair is?  I mean, look at that thing:

This is a screenshot of the video of his reaction after winning the award today, which you can check out here.  Maybe his hair is the reason he won it.  You don't see mops like that on many major league players.

Friday, November 06, 2009

A stroll through PC World's top 100 products of 2009

Around this time of year, PC World releases their list of the top 100 products of the year.  The list is a combination of products from many varied categories: social networking websites, desktop applications, operating systems, gadgets, consumer electronics, and pretty much anything tech related.  You can check out the 2009 edition by pointing your computer in this direction.

As I went through the list, I certainly encountered many familiar items (I'd list some of my favorites here, but there are just too many).  However, I also found others that I was either previously unaware of or had previously dismissed as uninteresting.  Here are some new gems that kept me up late tonight:

#8. Canon PowerShot SX200 IS
I'm in the market for a new "pocket megazoom" camera.  My requirements are at least 10x optical zoom and HD (720p) video.  I can now add this to the shortlist, which was previously occupied only by the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3.

#25. Boxee
A free open-source media center application.  This will come in handy for my office PC, especially while my media center PC is down with a faulty hard drive.  One of the big selling points of Boxee is the integration with online content, including Hulu.

#39. Qik
I've had their application installed on my Nokia N97 since I got the phone, but I never really knew what it did, besides that it was somehow related to video sharing.  Turns out that I can use it to stream live video from my phone to the interwebs.  Yes, seriously.  Stream.  Live.  Video.  From my phone.  To the web.  You could sit anywhere in the world with an Internet connection and watch live video streamed from my phone.  I tested it out.  It works.  And it's blowing my mind right now.  Oh, and you can share your videos on YouTube, Facebook, etc. after you're done recording.

#86. Hillcrest Labs Loop Pointer Remote
I've wanted a device like this ever since I heard of the Logitech Air Mouse.  This crazy design has me pondering whether I would prefer a mouse form factor (but movable in the air like a wand) or another potentially more ergonomic shape.