Monday, November 3, 2008

Cancún Trip: One week at the Mayan Palace Riviera Maya

I spent all of last week on vacation in Mexico and I have to say that it was one of the best trips I have ever had. The weather was great, not too hot but still way better then Utah, and I could not have asked for a better group to be with. We spent most of the time sitting next to a gynormous pool or eating at one of the restaurants at the resort. We also meet up with a friend that lived in the area and he took us out to Playa del Carmen for a night on the town. We had delicious Mojitos at a Cuban club called Bodeguita del Medio and ended up sitting about 5 feet away from the spectacular fire dancers at the Blue Parrot. For Halloween part of the group went into town to the famous Coco Bongo club while the rest of us mingled with the folks on the resort. Pretty much the only downside to the entire trip were the ginger-hungry mosquitos and the 3 par gold course from hell (275 yards on a par 3... WTF?)

I got back on Saturday, but today was my first day of work so it didn't really set in until then. I did however feel very refreshed and got all caught up on emails and voicemail and am ready to dive back into everyday life. If you ever get a chance, I highly recommend going to Cancún or one of the resorts close by, as I will always remember these memories:

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A, B, C, D, E, F.... Google and the Technological Singularity

I had an interesting conversation last night with some friend in which I said the only futuristic event that I am certain of is The Technological Singularity. I am not sure when it will happen and it may or may not be in my lifetime, but today I saw an interesting TED talk by Kevin Kelly in which he discusses the 5000 day history of the web and tries to predict what will happen in the next 5000 days. By his rough calculations, the web currently is on the same order of complexity as the human brain. Since the web increases in power every year, a feat that we humans have yet to accomplish, this means that by 2040 the web will have more processing power than all of humankind (which sounds a bit like the singularity to me). He also talks about the previous different stages of the web, from linking computers to linking pages and now linking data, and how once everything is connected (via RFID, the net, or whatever) we will become just as dependent on the web as we have on other technologies such as the alphabet. While I do not agree with all of his predictions, it is a very fascinating view of what we may have in-store for the future.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Deferential Geo-whatamy?

There are many things in this world that I will probably never truly understand (women being one of them ;-) but I like to hear people who do understand or at least understand many orders of magnitude more than I do try and explain things in simple terms. Quantum Mechanics and particle physics are two of those things that I have little hope of ever really understanding, but ideas like String Theory and big toys like the Large Hadron Collider simply fascinate me. I ran into a great TED presentation by Garrett Lisi who is an adventure sports enthusiast (aka surf and snow bum) and is an up and comer in the world of theoretical physics. About a year ago Lisi released a paper called "An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything," which uses a complex, multi-dimensional, differentiable manifold shape called the E8 to try and unify all of the forces of physics. It presents yet another alternative to String Theory, which the LHC should help to prove or disprove, but until then you can watch the following great presentation to see how things might work:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

My Christmas wish will come true this year!

While the Sin City 2 movie is not due out for another few years and the long awaited Watchmen movie is still 5 months away, it looks like Christmas will come, um, at Christmas this year when Frank Miller gives us all the gift of another cinematic masterpiece called The Spirit. I just saw the trailer this morning, and I am very excited.

And if that wasn't enough... Kevin Smith is making a porno on October 31st!

Here's another red-band preview for the movie, which is one you will probably never see at your local theater.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Obligatory South Park quote: "Spare some change?"

The aura of change is growing stronger every week: our politics are changing, our weather is changing, and even our financial markets have changed. My personal life is no different, so I though I would take this opportunity to list a few of the changes that I have made in the last few months:

Work smarter, not harder: 
I started using the time management software from RescueTime a few months ago and have found that it helps keep me from venturing too far off track during the work day. I had previously been using a small app built by the Software Jedi (my hero! I still use it for making my time cards), but it is buggy and lacks any real analysis features (still not bad for being built in one day). I was planning on building a bunch of macros and pivot tables in Excel for it when I ran across RescueTime, which is free for personal use and actively being developed. It keeps track of all the websites and applications you use on your computer and sends this data to their servers to let you tag each item as productive or not-productive. From all this tagging you get a bunch of pretty pictures saying how much time you spend working and how much you spend wasting reading web comics. They even have live widgets like the one that I added to the sidebar to spice up the blog.

Try new things: Part I
Chrome, the new Google browser has been the talk of the town lately, so I figured I would give it a try and see if it was all that it was cracked up to be. It started off a bit bumpy, as I ran into a Java plugin error right away, but after that it really did seem like it loads much faster and works better with Javascript laden sites like Gmail and Google Docs. There are still plenty of bugs to be worked out, but it is fun to work with a fresh new browser designed to maximize productivity. I’ll post another review after I spend more time with it, but for now try it out for your self or read the Google Chrome Comic to get a better idea what the buzz is all about. Did I mention it works with RescueTime too :-P

Try new things: Part II
Outside of work and web, I have also been making changes to my personal life. Having a Korean girlfriend means that I have been eating a lot of new foods and shopping at oriental markets too (a first). For example, tonight I had Yeul Ramyon - Hot Taste soup for dinner, which I had to admit was way better then the Oriental Top Ramen that I usually buy. I added some green peppers and one egg while cooking on the stove (another thing I would never do with regular Ramen), and I must say it was very delicious. I was a bit let down by the spiciness: it was hot enough to clear my sinus and leave that wonderful chili breath taste in your mouth, but it did not send me running to the fridge in tears for a glass of milk. I have two more Korean spicy ramen packages to try out, as well as ingredients for spring rolls, stir fry, and fried rice, so hopefully one of these days I will have the ulcer-inducing spicy hot meal that I have been craving (Anyone interested in a jalapeño chipotle chicken pizza?).

Try new things: Part III
In addition to eating new foods, I am starting to notice that we Americans are very overweight. It use to be that I could say I was not part of the problem, but my teenage metabolism has been gone for quite some time now and all those “extra curricular” activities in college have left me with a bit of pudge around the mid section. Since I am planning my next vacation at a Cancun resort with one of the largest pools in Latin America, I would say that means I need to start working out again; however since I have only been to the gym a few times in my lifetime I don’t thing “again” is the correct term. Instead I decided to utilize the equipment I already own (namely an exercise ball, some free weights, and a mountain bike) as well as adding some new tools like a jump rope and medicine ball. So far the bike and jump rope feel like they have the best chance of lasting long term. I can get in a half hour of jump rope every day and hope to bike at least 5 miles each week. My real goal is to bike from my house all the way up to Olympus Cove, which by my estimate is 4-5 miles away and 500-800 ft of elevation change. Luckily the ride back home is all downhill.

I will keep you up to date on these new endeavors, as well as any other new changes that I come across. That is unless I happen to win the lottery, in which case the only change I will be mentioning is my new job of not doing a damn thing :-J


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Please keep your arms and legs inside the Omnibus at all times

It has been over a month since I last posted, so I thought I would get back into the groove with a Omnibus Update. Things have been über busy this summer and I have not finished even half of the things that I wanted to, but such is life. The condo still does not have any pictures on the walls and I have not even used the porch yet, although I did finally get a nice TV stand on clearance at Shopko for $33! I don't actually have a TV, as I always use a projector, but at least now I have somewhere to store all my DVDs and the Wii. I still need to get some plants and various other thing, but overall it is coming together quite well and definitely feels like home.

Last month flew by at light speed, yet I somehow still managed to meet a girl (Jihyun, aka mamacita bonita, now my "official girlfriend"), present at the Flash Memory Conference in Santa Clara (Nailed it!), have an awesome vacation in San Fransisco (best picture ever :-), and get back into town just in time for a killer Big Wednesday (Luau themed bar crawl). In San Francisco we stayed at a really nice hotel called the Prescott right next to union square and had a lot of fun: we went to a comedy club, a dueling piano bar, the wax museum, and walked around the Pier. We were suppose to drive out to Napa Valley for a wine tour but ran out of time. It was a good vacation, but next time we need to schedule a couple more days to get everything in.

I went to a cousin's wedding in Oregon over labor day weekend, where I got to help serve Pinot Noir grape juice, setup and tear down all the tables and chairs, and even run to the hardware store to fix the backdrop. I am more than happy to help out though, as it helps avoid the inevitable question of "So when are you getting married?" (answer is 2012 :-) We still had fun too: I went bowling with my brothers, cousins, and nephew and went mountain biking down Mount Ashland (the same trail they use to do the Super D run). I did fairly well in bowling, but trying to keep up with my younger cousins made it clear that I am in no shape to be riding down the mountain on a bike. I told them to come to Utah sometime and I will teach them a thing or two on the snow.

That brings us up to September, where I have been busy testing a new software release and getting ready for the roll-out later this month. I am very glad that I do not have to go back to school this semester, as it leaves a bit more free time to hangout and have fun. September seems to be a popular month for birthdays, and we have a camping trip to Flaming Gorge planned for this weekend to celebrate at least 4 of them. Should be a lot of fun and a good break before work starts to pickup at the end of the month.

And lastly, this week the Large Hadron Collider came online, which is designed to try and find the Higgs boson particle among other things. So far it has yet to tear apart the known universe (a shame really), so in the spirit of advanced particle physics and tearing a new one, I will leave you with the video that recently won the MTV Video Music Award for "Best Big Bang Theory Related Video". Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

2008 Flash Memory Summit and a vacation to boot!

Like many people that I have talked to recently, I have found myself buried under a mountain of work that seems to have no end in sight. Every time I climb my way to the top of one peak, another pops up in its place and taunts me to keep going. This week is especially busy as I am trying to finish things up before going to the 2008 Flash Memory Summit in California, all while maintaining a blooming social life full of bowling, poker and various other late night excursions.

The conference starts next week at the Santa Clara Marriott and runs Tuesday through Thursday. The preview program lists many exciting keynote speakers from great companies such as Micron, Intel, Sandisk, Samsung and Dell, but I guarantee that the best presentation is going to be on Wednesday morning during "Tutorial 1B: Designing Flash-Based Products". That is when I will be presenting an overview of the Hardware Based Flash Memory Failure Characterization Platform that just might solve our current economic crisis and end world hunger! Ok... well maybe those are a bit ambitious goals, but if you are a product engineer and want to see how long flash memory will work under specific use patters or you just have a keen interest in the failure characteristics of NAND Flash then this is definitely going to rock your world.

The presentation is based on work that I helped complete as part of a team of 5 students from the University of Utah Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) department for the 2007-2008 senior engineering clinic sponsored by the Micron Foundation. It was built using an FPGA and custom software and is fully open source, so if you are interested in Flash Memory check out the abstract and slides or visit the project website for more information. Needless to say I am very excited about going to my first technical conference and ecstatic about getting the opportunity to showcase the work we have done.

I am even more excited that I was able to talk our faculty advisor into extending the return trip so that I could squeeze in my first real vacation of the year. After the conference ends I will be heading to San Francisco to meet up with a group of friends that I somehow managed to talk in to flying out with me. We currently have plans to visit various tourist attractions, indulge ourselves in the great night life, and even get in a day or two of wine tasting, all while staying at one of the top 50 hotels in the country! I have been to San Fransisco before with family and enjoyed it very much, but this is shaping up to be a spectacular trip!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Radiohead + Lasers = Awesome Music Video!

Today's post comes from the lasers-make-everything-cooler department. Radiohead decided to skip the cameras and lights for their House of Cards music video and instead used lasers to capture 3D images. The results are pretty cool:

Even cooler is being able to direct the video yourself. The House of Cards 3D Viewer lets you rotate using the mouse and zoom using a scroll wheel. If that isnt enough, you can download the data and create your own rendering (click title above for more info). There is already a YouTube group with 26 different versions of the song. Now that is viral if I ever heard it!


Monday, July 14, 2008

Reason 695 why I love the Internet: No-Budget Kung-Fu Movies!!!

So I was reading Circle Versus Square today and found a pretty cool short film called SockBaby that was highlighted in the comments. Apparently it was produced back in 2004 by John Soares and Doug TenNapel (creator of Earthworm Jim), and I have to say the action and effects are not too shabby. I have seen multi-million dollar Hollywood movies that could take some notes from these guys. Looks like Sockbaby 4 is going to be released in the near future... I will definitely be keeping an eye out for that one.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

4 AM - Deprived of Slumber - The Madness

So here I am, wide awake in the wee hours of the morning with another bout of insomnia. I use to blame it on my college schedule, where I would routinely wait until the last minute and then pull an all night-er (or two) to finish a project or study for an exam. After graduation I have come to learn that my sleep schedule is still at the mercy of my social life (poker, midnight bowling, late-night movies) and/or work schedule (still procrastinating and trying to cram it all in during the last 24 hours). I guess that means I cannot blame anyone but myself.

Anyway... Over the years I have come across many amusing things regarding insomnia and I thought I would share them with you so that I can at least be doing something productive.

Item 1: Rives on 4 AM

This is another great video from TED that shows there really is a conspiracy. Check it out or see more of his videos here.

Item 2: Nauseous Nocturne

This is a great poem from the Calvin and Hobbes books that is a must read for anyone ages 7 to 70. Robert Frost could not have said it better himself.

Item 3: The Madness

As always, XKCD speaks for itself.

The Madness

Well... now I am off to try and get at least a few hours of sleep in before the sun rises. If it were up to me I would sleep all day and play/work all night (get a lot more done that way!), but society has other plans.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Wine + Pandora + Web Comics = Utter Bliss

It has been a rough month so far, and I have not had time to do half of the things I should have or wanted to do, but after a long day there is nothing like an over sized glass of wine (or two), a good Pandora station, and a brand new webcomic. Life is good!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Why I love video - No amount of words could express this.

I found another website today with great videos on various topics. It is getting late, so I'll write more about it later, but for now just watch this:


Monday, June 2, 2008

Twitter - The Pringles chips of Internet communication

I just stumbled upon the Alt Text blog written by Lore Sjöberg at Wired magazine and will be adding it to my weekly RSS diet. I actually found it through a video posted on YouTube (see below), and initially thought that it was a video blog, but it appears that he writes a column regularly for the magazine that then gets recorded as an audio podcast and occasionally posted as a video. The column is a great read, and listening to the audio while reading the blog helps to keep up with the quick and witty punchlines, but the videos include funny cartoons that really take the cake. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but nothing beats 32 frames per second even at 320x240 resolution!

Below is the video where he talks about Twitter, which is categorized as a micro-blogging site (think SMS text messages received via the Internet instead of your cell phone). Like blogging, it's easy to over-use the service and I find it near impossible to follow conversations between two people since the messages can't be linked together, but even for its short comings I could imagine situations where Twitter is the right tool for the job. Lore points out a key issue with Twitter and online social networking in general (watch the video to figure it out), and manages to get a few great laughs all in under 5 minutes. Plus he has a Questionable Content comic open on one of his monitors in the background, which gives him mad props in my book.

Here is the link to the video and the blog text:

Check out some of the other Wired: Alt Text videos that range on topics from comparing Optical Illusions to rating Superheroines and Logical Fallacies. If you like them, subscribe to their blog and help me start a petition to have them create more video posts.

As for twitter, if you are using it Robert Scoble recommends checking out, which allows you to combine feeds from many popular online sources to create a single threaded conversation (think of it as a personal youtube, flickr, twitter, blogger,, reddit, pandora, netflix aggregator that you can make public). More info here, here, and here.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Web comics of interest

Now that I am working full time, I have been spending a sizable amount of my day online. Between answering emails and patching servers, I tend to drift to various sites that keep me entertained while I'm confined behind a desk. Most of them are listed under the links on the right hand side, but I thought I would share a few of the web comics with you in more detail in case you had not stumbled upon them yet.

The first and one of my favorites is xkcd - "A web comic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language." It gets updated 3 times a week, and is geared towards geeks and nerds, although many of the comics are applicable to a much larger audience. The comic does come with a warning however - "Warning: this comic occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)." I advise viewing a dozen or so random comics to see if it fits your sense of humor or not. Here is an excerpt from a few days ago (click to follow to main page):

The next site of interest is Questionable Content, or QC for short (and because I'm lazy). QC is a web comic about a group of friends finding their way through life and love. It started out with heavy overtones of independent musicians (aka.. indie bands), but now days the story fills most of the material and there are only occasional references to bands that nobody has ever heard of. The artistic style has changed a lot over time, but the images are drawn very well, with a lot of detail given to each character and the backgrounds. I must warn you that the storyline can be very addictive. I know more than one person that has spent an entire day (or night) reading QC to try and catch up to the current release. The comic is update 5 times a week, but I find it more enjoyable to only check the site once or twice a week, as one a day is hardly enough to get your fix. Highly recommended for anyone that is looking for a good story with great character development.

The last comic is Homestar Runner, or more specifically the Strong Bad Email section. This comic has been around for quite some time, and is more of a cartoon than a comic since it is based in flash animation. The premise of the cartoon is that Strong Bad answers emails sent in by users of the website, making sure to berate them for any and all spelling mistakes or grammatical errors along the way. The episodes are usually funny as the cast includes many unique characters ranging from a depressed little brother (Strong Sad) to the gluttonous King of Town, who has his very own poopsmith. The emails are always from different users, so there aren't any real themes to the content other than the fact that he ends up blowing up his computer every once in a while. You can scroll through the list to see if any of them tickle your fancy, or I recommend the following episodes: Miniature Golf, Pet Show, 12:00, and best of all... Virus!

So there is the list. Between those three sites, - "News for nerds, stuff that matters" and Google Finance I can pretty much waste away an entire day. Speaking of which, I have to work tomorrow, so should probably be getting to bed.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Video Reviews

Having recently moved into my own place and finished school with a Computer Engineering degree, I have had a lot of free time in the last few months. Rather than waste that free time watching television commercials, I have started spending more time watching online videos about subjects that I find interesting (That... and I bought a Wii :-). There are plenty of videos online that are even more of a waste of time than TV, so I thought I would use this space to help highlight those that I find informative or funny.

The Google Tech Talk videos are always a good candidate because they are usually high quality and recorded by someone with more than just a web cam an a few hours of free time. Google will fly in experts from various fields to present their research or topics of interest to the Google employees. Lucky for us they record the sessions and upload them to Youtube. Some of the videos have the same entertainment value as a masters thesis dissertation, but they are usually very informative and a great way to spend an hour of free time with out turning off your brain. Occasionally the speakers even manage to lace in a bit of humor, although it probably is best classified as geek or nerd humor and not the some-guy-getting-hit-in-the-groin type of humor appreciated by the general public.

I've watched a half a dozen videos so far, but wanted to highlight two that give a unique historical perspective of the development of computers and the World Wide Web. Both of these events happened before my time, and while I have a deep understanding of how things work today, I do not have any knowledge about how these things came about. If you have any interest in these subjects or just need something to help pass the time, I give both videos two thumbs up.


Turing's Cathedral
Google Tech Talks - April, 9 2008
Speaker: George Dyson (scientific historian)

Video summary:

The video talks about John von Neumann building one of the first computers at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ over 60 years ago. The initial goal was to run calculations for building the hydrogen bomb, but the machine they built has had a direct impact on many different fields and is an ancestor to the computer architectures in use today. The video quality is actually pretty bad, as there was an open window in the background and changes in sunlight due to the cloud coverage makes it difficult to view the speaker or the screen (try the link to the high quality video at the bottom, seems to work a bit better). The speaker can drone on a bit, but it is fascinating to see how computers came about and the different problems that they had to deal with. Also, there is a very interesting discussion about artificial intelligence and computer consciousness, which the speaker relates to the work of Alfred Smee in the late 1800s. According to his definition, computers may already have obtained consciousness. He also mentions that if they become smart enough, they might never present themselves to the public at large (à la Jane, my favorite character from Orson Scott Card's Ender series).

Text not available
Principles of the human mind deduced from physical laws; By Alfred Smee


The Web That Wasn't
Google Tech Talks - October, 23 2007
Speaker: Alex Wright (author, information architect at the New York Times)

ABSTRACT (from YouTube)
For most of us who work on the Internet, the Web is all we have ever really known. It's almost impossible to imagine a world without browsers, URLs and HTTP. But in the years leading up to Tim Berners-Lee's world-changing invention, a few visionary information scientists were exploring alternative systems that often bore little resemblance to the Web as we know it today. In this presentation, author and information architect Alex Wright will explore the heritage of these almost-forgotten systems in search of promising ideas left by the historical wayside.The presentation will focus on the pioneering work of Paul Otlet, Vannevar Bush, and Doug Engelbart, forebears of the 1960s and 1970s like Ted Nelson, Andries van Dam, and the Xerox PARC team, and more recent forays like Brown's Intermedia system. We'll trace the heritage of these systems and the solutions they suggest to present day Web quandaries, in hopes of finding clues to the future in the recent technological past.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Mission Statement

I have never been fond of introductions, but I do crave structure, so I feel that the best way to start things off is with a mission statement of what this space will be used for. The hope is that with a few guidelines in place I can prevent things from going terribly horribly wrong and maybe stumble upon a formula for success in the process. So without further ado and in no particular order (although still numbered to appease my OCD), I give you my rules for writing:

  1. Be entertaining and informative - at least 20% of each post should make you laugh or teach you something new. Otherwise, what is the point to writing?

  2. Don't reinvent the wheel - let others do the talking if their words match my opinion.

  3. Refrain from using absolute words such as Always and Never. They rarely speak to the whole truth and are an indicator that you have not thought about all possible options.

  4. Start with a neutral point of view - If you can't at least acknowledge both sides of an argument, how can you come to an informed conclusion?

  5. Strive for perfection, but settle for 80% - True perfection is very difficult to obtain, and in many complex systems that involve computers, humans, or a combination of the two it may be impossible to reach. My opinion is that 80% is a more reasonable goal, although constant improvement should be included so that your first derivative is in the positive direction.

  6. Efficient communication is key - Check and double check each post to make sure that grammar and spelling are correct. I am not an English major, but if I can program a computer I should be able to converse with other humans.

  7. KISS - If you can't describe something in simple terms, you probably don't know enough to be explaining it to others. A true expert could explain it in terms their grandmother would understand. For a great example and an inspiration for starting this blog, check out this video.

  8. See the big picture, but don't loose sight of the little people - If you can't bring it back to reality, the idea is not fully formed or logically sound. One of these days I'll understand the meaning of the universe, but until then it is just a theory.

  9. Cross pollinate knowledge - I am a member of many worlds but a slave to none. Not all of the topics that I write about will be of interest to you, but they are of interest to me and of great enough importance that I feel others would benefit from hearing about them.

  10. Keep things brief - While in this space I am technically am a content generator, I prefer to see myself as a content aggregator, highlighting the work of others that I find informative and injecting my opinions when appropriate. While I do have my occasional rants and raves, I will do my best to keep things brief and on topic. If a random comment does appear, check to see if a cat is near by.

I welcome feedback and hope you will add your voice to the discussion. Ask questions if you don't understand something and want more information, or feel free to explain why I am wrong. Just remember, in this realm I am god... omnipresent and omnipotent.