Friday, September 30, 2005

My Idea about Clothing

nikhil says i should post more on my blog. fine nikhil, i'll reveal all my crazy wacky ideas and thoughts...

so i had this idea while buying clothes. very often, men don't want to buy clothes (this holds for some women too, but i think for more men). they do it because they need to update their wardrobe, their partner wants them to, etc..

however, the process of buying clothes is tedious, boring, costly, and somewhat of a crapshoot -- the clothes you get might look good at the store, but are a pain when you get home. but what can you do, there are few other ways of buying clothes... (i know someone will say "the web" but i don't think the web is good enough yet for this)

what i want: a service where you pay a certain amount each month, and they build for you a custom clothesline, suited to your size needs, your preferences, your tastes. you want to be a bit hip? grungy? want to just be in style, but don't really care what they send you? we can do that..

the idea is that you send this service your measurements, a bit about yourself, and periodically they send you outfits (or particular clothes you want) which you try on, hopefully like, and wear. no going to the mall, no clothes torture. sure, this won't be perfect, but i actually conjecture that for a large part of the mall-going, clothes buying population, this will actually be better in many ways: the buyer avoids the torture of going shopping, they get probably better looking clothes than they would otherwise, etc..

is this possible now? well, ideas like this have been tried (here's an example), but usually at a much higher end. you can get a personal shopper if you're rich. but i'm not trying to appeal to that crowd, neccessarily. i want to help people who don't want to go through the process, but want to look good!

anyway this is my quick first draft of this idea. hit me with your feleings, thoughts, comments!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Boring, over my head Talk

i went to a boring and what-felt-like-hours dissertation talk today. if i knew more about the subject, i'm sure it would've been thrilling, but given my knowledge, and the speed at which the speaker spoke, i actually lost my way and almost hit my head 3 times as i nodded in and out of consciousness.

this got me thinking -- i wanted to leave, but i couldn't, because it might've been taken as insulting. i wish a bubble could've popped up over my head for all to read: "He's Leaving Cause He's an Idiot" ... they all would've chuckled and life would go on.

Here's is a mock-up of what i want:

The Room is Clean

Success, success! We've vacuumed the floors, cleaned all the desks, the air conditioning has been fixed, and they even replaced our lights! Our room is in good working shape now. There are some small things we're going to be improving (maybe some color, some more light) but we've done well. Perseverance works!

I'll post pictures soon.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Filling in the bubbles...

this is great! taken from BoingBoing:

Ji Lee printed 50,000 of these speech bubble stickers and stuck them on "movie posters, ads and signs all over New York City," and then went back and took photos of what people wrote.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Raja: Doctor in the House

this isn't actually raja, but is taken from

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Toronto: Simulated Dirty Bomb Attack

CBC reports that Toronto's Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Response Team ran a simulated attack response in downtown Toronto:

The scenario involved terrorists detonating two bombs in downtown Toronto's financial district.

The first was a radioactive device contaminating a subway car.

The second simulated explosion minutes later was a hydrogen cyanide blast in a stairwell of the Royal Trust tower.


I wonder if such a test is actually effective? How can you really simulate the widescale panic that would ensue if such an attack occurred?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

just bought the JBL Onstage for iPods

i took the plunge and bought the jbl onstage for iPods. you dock your iPod with this device, and it supposedly plays great, IF you don't have a defective device. about 1% of items are defective, and you have to go through a week-long process to get a new one if you get a defective one...


was this stupid to do? i bought on amazon, which could have defective stock, because it was $50 cheaper than buying from JBL directly, but this could cause me problems.. anyway i hope i got lucky, but now i'm feeling a bit dumb. oh well.

amazon link

Thursday, September 15, 2005

john roberts and abortion rights

i was listening to democracy now's analysis of the john roberts confirmation hearings. one thing particularly struck me. it seems that roberts was very careful in his answers concerning Roe v. Wade (the landmark case upholding a woman's right to an abortion). it was spoken by Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization of Women
There's a – I just want to read you something from one of the right wing groups that has been writing on this to their own people. It's called You’re probably familiar with it. It’s sort of an analysis from the right wing about the hearings and how they're going. “Roberts’s answer was brilliant. He made a statement that will satisfy most Americans about privacy while leaving himself enough wiggle room to move the court on [abortion] in the future.” And then just a few minutes later, they posted, quote, “A top-flight leading conservative pro-life lawyer with a vibrant Supreme Court practice whose name most readers of this forum would know just walked into the room where I am sitting. He was thrilled about Roberts's answers during the dialogue with Specter and indicated his strong approval and endorsement. He explained that Roberts's answer was carefully framed to provide a basis for revisiting and overturning Roe in the future.”
i can't imagine the court overturning Roe v. Wade, but i'm bothered that the senators who think Roe v. Wade is so important didn't press him more on this matter.

See the full transcript of the democracy now show here

laptop posture

i feel like i must be the frailest person ever, but i want to say this for all the people who use laptops extensively, which i know is a lot of people: be concerned not just about your hands, but your neck too. here's a link on good laptop ergonomics.

anyway, my hands have been feeling great for quite some time now, and i'm happy i've found a good position for them, as well as good interface devices (for laptops, i love the ibm thinkpad keyboard/red dot thingy combination).

however, i've noticed that over the past few days that my neck has been bothering me a little. the problem seems pretty obvious now: constant looking down at the laptop keyboard (i keep my laptop on my lap). the solution however is not to put the laptop on a desk, because if the laptop is high enough, than the neck will be fine, but your hands will suffer. it's the inevitable problem of laptops: by coupling the monitor with the input devices, the user is screwed no matter which way they do things.

the best thing to do is to dock your laptop and get a separate monitor and keyboard. if you can't do that, please stretch more! sometimes these problems can take years to manifest themselves, but be assured that if you have bad posture, it will catch up to you!

so work hard and type and mouse right :)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

chefs and software engineers

this might sound stupid, but i was thinking about chefs and software engineers and i realized that they are very similar: each has some big project (the right meal, the right application) and they are trying to realize that. they experiment, but they mostly understand the effect of removing or adding any particular ingredient.

neha told me that there's a big difference in that chefs can have this thrill and almost sensual pleasure in making food, whereas software engineers just don't get that. hmm.. well i don't know about the type of pleasure in either setting, but i'll tell you that when you solve a problem in either realm there's a big thrill.

i think the big difference is timelines. you can't have an iron chef tv show for software engineers because it takes at least days, if not months or years to build good applications, whereas you can make a pretty good meal in an hour or less, with enough underlings :)

Friday, September 09, 2005

katrina: reporters ask tough questions, go a little nuts

this video from salon is a good montage of various press reactions to the hurricane. link

Thursday, September 08, 2005

independent book stores

kqed forum (podcast here) recently had a show on independent bookstores. the show was prompted by the recent closure of kepler's bookstore in menlo park.

the forum had a few independent bookstore owners and employees on, and i thought it was rather biased. they were all talking about how great independent bookstores are, how they foster community and are the hotspots for new authors to break into mainstream society. that's all well and good, but when i go to a bookstore, i want to get a book, at a cheap price, and be treated well. i find that amazon does all that for me. independent bookstores are sometimes cool to go to and see what they have on their shelves, to do a sort of browsing that's just more fun in real life than on amazon, but when it comes to buying, and getting recommendations, amazon is quite good.

i want to emphasize the recommendation part: sure, amazon has a huge database and it tracks all its customers' purchases, and i suppose it could sell or do bad things with that data, but in all honesty, i know that amazon sometimes makes good recommendations to me based on that data. i feel i have a good shopping experience online with amazon.

so instead of poo-pooing the fact that amazon doesn't have to charge state sales tax, etc.. independent bookstores should be working on making their products available online (maybe via amazon, or via abebooks), and making the customer experience more meaningful. they need to compete! they need to make me want to visit them. for instance, on the day of the recent harry potter launch, i went to a bookstore that decorated everything in harry potter style, and had activities and games, and it was great for me as an adult, and fantastic for children. if that bookstore were closer to me, i might visit it more often.

i should note that the powell's books guy seemed to be saying things somewhat along these lines -- that the independent booksellers needed to get their act together. really they do: they used to be able to get away with doing next-to-nothing, and now they need to do something, and why not, they have a big advantage: they have location on their side.

room cleaning continues!

i wish i had my camera today. yesterday we moved all the crap over all the desks into two boxes, and tucked those boxes away. it was a big start! but today we did perhaps an even bigger thing: rid the room of a lot of its dust. i took two swiffers to school today, and i will hopefully post an image of the dust-riddled swiffers, along with the dust-free desks. it was really cathartic.

lorenzo, tired of the cold, decided to obstruct the air conditioning with cardboard. it seems to be a good idea -- things are warming up. you'd think that the soda hall staff would know how to warm things up using more standard measures though.

the goal tomorrow, if i go into school, is to wipe down the desks and maybe get some new light bulbs for the lights -- half of them are burnt out. slowly we're making a room where it would be somewhat pleasant to complete a problem set.

howl's moving castle: quantum leap ending

howl's moving castle (reviews) has great animation, funny characters, and an awful ending. the ending comes out of left field and is so odd that people around me in the theatre were cracking up at the ridiculousness of it. if they had just made the movie 30 minutes shorter, and thought about the ending, this might've been up there with spirited away.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

[tech] active learning

the theory lunch today was about active learning theory. the talk was given by sanjoy dasgupta. active learning is an interesting idea, and probably quite relevant to what's going on in the real world wrt learning. the idea is this: given an unlabeled set of points from some distribution, you are allowed to ask for the label for any point, but asking for a label has a cost. the goal is generate an hypothesis that correctly categorizes the points into their respective label categories.

so for instance, if you have points along a line, and say all points above 5 are labeled +, and all below five are labeled -, then a good hypothesis would be to say: "label all points above 5 as +, and all below as -". a not so good hypothesis might be to say: "label all points above 4 as +, and all below as -". but you only see a finite number of points, so in any case, you need to generate your hypothesis based on all your unlabelled points you've seen, as well as those points that have a label because you asked for their label. so ask for labels wisely!

something more concrete, suggested by a post-doc (don't remember the name) at the lunch, and modified slightly by me: suppose you have a user interface, and you want to suggest things to your user to help them along. every time you suggest something, you get immediate feedback from the user: was the suggestion helpful or not. now think of user interactions as your unlabelled points, and the user's feedback based on your suggestion as the label. however, notice that there's an implied cost in asking for a label, because if you asked the user confront a suggestion at every possible interaction, the user would get very angry. so the cost is related to your user's happiness. you need to weigh the benefit you can provide to the user by giving them a suggestion vs the annoyance of giving them a suggestion that they don't like.

anyway that was a bit fast and incoherent, but if you're really interested, talk to me or check out the links.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

guess who -- revealed

there were many guesses in the "guess who contest", both in the comments and in email. the two most interesting guesses were for the american idol star william hung and for my friend from cornell qiuwei chen. actually neither is right! the right answer can be found here

i'm not sure what this implies about our ability to perceive the differences between certain facial types... ?

Monday, September 05, 2005

guess who this is

in comments, or email, guess who this is, and i'll reveal the answer shortly:

this is one of the birds we saw while canoeing on the river near mendocino Posted by Picasa

neha handled the steering of the boat from the back. she also coached me on how to paddle correctly, though faster paddlers elsewhere seemed to do it differently. Posted by Picasa

on our second day, neha and i went canoeing. it was a little bit hard, but so much fun. things were really peaceful on the river; we saw lots of animals and seaweed. Posted by Picasa

Neha, Niniane, Peter and I went to Mendocino for labor day weekend. it was a lot of fun! Posted by Picasa


i went to mendocino for labor day weekend. it was very relaxing and we did a lot. four of us went up together: neha and i, and niniane and peter. we all stayed in the same bed and breakfast, the white gate inn. the white gate had great breakfast in the morning (first day we had apple french toast, the second day we had a great frittata). we also drank lots of wine and had some good cheese during the 5-6 happy hour.

our room was named spring meadow (there was also garden path, daisy, etc..) . it was a tad strange: the ceiling was slanted, so that in one corner i had to duck quite low or risk banging my head. but other than that, it was a quaint room, nothing special.

the town of mendocino, on the other hand, was very special. positioned right on bluffs above the pacific ocean, we had a remarkable view from almost anywhere in town. everything was slow and peaceful in town except the fire alarm/tsunami warning system. it seemed to go off quite regularly, and was this awful siren that pierced you down to the core. that siren must be awful for weddings.

neha got sick on saturday night and didn't feel that well on sunday or monday, but we still had a great time. we just had to take things a bit easier.

anyway, i recommend mendocino for anyone who wants to relax, and doesn't mind the occasional mind-splitting siren.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

katrina, cornell and tulane

tulane university is now closed indefinitely in the wake of katrina. my undergrad institution, cornell university, is opening up its doors to tulane students and professors. it's a great gesture, and i hope other instutitions think about how they can help students from the area, and not just university students, but all levels.

Link (via Boing Boing)

Friday, September 02, 2005

microsoft's harsh words

one of my co-workers gave me this link to a description of a deposition as part of the recent microsoft vs google court case. looks like steve ballmer, microsoft's CEO, is not too happy with google's ceo, eric schmidt!

here's mr ballmer's reaction to a prized employee's revelation that he's quitting for google:

At that point, Mr. Ballmer picked up a chair and threw it across the room hitting a table in his office. Mr. Ballmer then said: "Fucking Eric Schmidt is a fucking pussy. I'm going to fucking bury that guy, I have done it before, and I will do it again. I'm going to fucking kill Google." ....

fun times!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

hurricane katrina and how you can help

it's hard to imagine how awful the devastation is, but a quick look at some of the katrina tagged pictures in flickr can give you some idea.

(AP Photo, Irwin Thompson, i didn't get permission to use it sorry..)

amazon is doing a really great thing by taking donations for the american red cross on their site. Donate here. this is helpful because the red cross web site itself can't sustain the amount of traffic it's getting at this point, so by using this link you'll be giving room for others to help + helping out with your own donation.

the talking corner

two days in a row i've walked past a corner near my office (hearst and euclid) and seen someone talking to themselves, and gesturing wildly.

these were different people, and they didn't look sick, or homeless. i wonder if this is a preparation spot people use? maybe it imbues you with all sorts of wild and crazy powers? anyway, in the picture below, the spot is just off to the left, outside the picture. maybe those two people are walking to it? i'm going to try it out one day. you should too if you're ever in berkeley.


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