Googles Street View

Google maps added a feature called "Street View" awhile ago, but it only had coverage in to a few big cities. Street View is a feature where they drive a van with a bunch of cameras on it up and down the streets to record what the streets look like when you're driving on them. It can be useful to see to figure out what a new place looks like before you drive there.

I just noticed today that Street View was added for the area I live. It's oddly entertaining to play around with this feature. I don't know why just verifying these streets I use every day look the same on these maps as they do in real life is fun. Here is a link to street view near my home. You can use the arrow keys on your keyboard to move the camera up and down the street and to turn around.


San Francisco

My flight to San Francisco was delayed for two hours on United. I was a little annoyed at how the delay was handled. There was nobody from United to answer our questions about why it was delayed and if it might get delayed more. I eventually tracked down a person who knew that the flight was delayed because the airplane was arriving late and that it was in the air. I guess that was all the information I needed, but it would have been nice if they would have shared more information. On other delayed flights that I've been on the crew normally apologies for the delayed flight. Not on this flight. They never once mentioned that the flight was delayed. Maybe they thought we'd forget about it or something. I didn't forget about it and neither did the family next to me who missed their connecting flight. Not very classy way to handle delayed flights if you ask me. I'll probably avoid United flights in the future if I can, but I'd still choose them before Northwest. I'm a bit afraid that someday all airlines will be on my bad list at which point I guess they'd all get another chance :-) All airlines except Midwest, they've helped me out so many times in the past they'd need to do an awful lot of bad things to make me dislike them and I highly doubt they'd ever try to cash out their favor bank. But I've heard they're probably going to get bought out by some crappy airline so then Midwest will be gone anyways :(

My time in San Francisco was pretty good. I spent my spare time during the beginning of the week just preparing for my presentation. The only problem was that there was a scheduling snafu and I had to start 15 minutes before the time listed in the book. Even so, most people showed up on time and another 25% more people showed up during the talk making for a full room by the end. Numerous people told me that they thought I did a very good job and that the topic was interesting. I guess all that preparation paid off!

Ray Kurzweil at GDC 2008

Of all the talks I attended at GDC this year there is one future-looking keynote by Ray Kurzweil that I'd like to mention on this blog. He is a famous author/inventor. His talk was about how progress has been a smooth exponential curve for a long time (his graphs started with the origin of life on earth) and his claim is that this exponential progress will not stop. He made predictions like human lifespans will start growing by more than one year per year in 15 years (meaning people will no longer die from old age). Computer processing power will keep doubling and we will have hardware capable of simulating the human brain by 2013 and the software by 2029. He also talked about how we'll use computers to augment our intelligence. Eternal life, truly smart AIs, and computers in our brains to make us smarter. That's three huge changes in the next 20 years. Over the past twenty years we've seen computers and the internet dramatically change our lives, and these three things could lead to even bigger changes. Kurzweil's main message is that the rate of change is growing exponentially and I tend to agree with that point. Think about how fast change occurred a million years ago, ten thousand years ago, a hundred years ago, and during the past 20 years.

He talked a lot about past success he's had with predictions, but he never talked about how past successes in this area aren't a good indication of future successes. Think about it this way. If you have a million people predicting what will happen in the future some are bound to be right up until this point, but just because they got lucky up until now doesn't mean they'll be right from this point forward. That said he is a very smart fellow and I'm pretty sure his predictions aren't just luck, but I do think it's important to remember luck does play some part in it. I'm quite sure some of his detailed predictions will be wrong. My initial feeling was that I wouldn't really like to see a lot of the changes he talked about, but that is just an initial feeling that such fast and large changes could destabilize society and result in less happiness instead of more. Maybe as we get closer to these changes they won't feel so big and I'll feel more neutral towards them. I don't see anything here making humanity happier though and I don't think he's really considering that aspect (or at least his talk at GDC didn't mention the happiness side of things). No matter whether I decide these huge changes that are coming are good or bad; my beliefs aren't going to change human progress. I can either hide from change or accept it, but I can't prevent it.


San Fransisco

I was at GDC in San Fransisco last year. That year I just listened to lectures. This year I'm a presenter. I don't enjoy public speaking much, but I do think it will be a good experience. I'll be sure to report back on how the trip went when I get back.


Snowboarding at Sunday River

Eric, Steve (a buddy from work) and me headed up to Sunday River for a weekend of snowboarding. It was pretty awesome. There was lots of nice snow on the first day and the second day added a few inches of powder. It wasn't perfect because there was no huge dumping of powder on us, but the conditions were good. Fun was had in abundance by all three of us.


Picture Wall Project

I've been thinking about doing a project like this for sometime, but I finally did it over the past few weeks. It took a little trial and error, but I'm pleased with the final results.

The desire was to provide a cheap and easy way to display a bunch of my photos in my house. I decided that hanging them like they do in darkrooms on cables would look pretty cool so that's the idea I started with. Darkrooms tend to use bulldog clips so I tried that first. It worked well but I wanted a cleaner look and I found some people on the internet that were using magnets to hold up pictures. I tried probably 4 or 5 clips and magnet combinations and eventually decided that just mounting the pictures to matboard and then gluing some washers to the matboard was my favorite. The magnets hold the metal cable to the washers on the matboard. The reason for the washers is so that when I replace the pictures I just have 1 cent washers on the matboard that I can throw away.

In my first attempt I used two sided sticky tape to adhere the washers to the matboard and I used very small magnets. This led to a catastrophic failure. When I left all my pictures were on the wall and when I came back home I found nearly all the pictures were on the ground. After scratching my head for awhile I realized that one of the washers had come undone and that picture had hit the cables below it and that wiggled the cable in a way that shook every last picture off (stupid harmonics). The solution to this was to use real glue to hold the washers to the matboard (I used Goop) and to buy stronger magnets. I went with some 30 cent thin cylinder magnets that had 12 pounds of force from KJmagnetics. These two changes seemed to fix the problem and my pictures have been hanging there for about a week now.