May 31, 2004

Hong Kong Day 4

Today was the official start of the GCCCE conference. I was asked to do a little greeting to a meeting of doc students and then went back to the office they've set up for me here. Got to meet the people who are hosting me in Guangzhou and Taiwan later this week as well as Dave Merrill, who is keynoting here on Thursday. Another big lunch on campus, followed by another offering of my 3 hour workshop and the conference opening reception. The highlight of the day was a trip to Sai Kung, a fishing village in the east side of the New Territories where we picked out a variety of fish and crustaceans from tanks and met them again at our dinner table a few minutes later. Good conversation and food ensued.

Pictures from Days 3 and 4 are now uploaded.


May 30, 2004

Hong Kong Day 3

A quieter day. I got to relax until early afternoon and then Harrison Yang and I went off to see the Buddha. Five subway transfers and an hour busride later we arrived at the Po Lin Monastery, just in time to have a vegetarian lunch. Then we huffed up 268 steps to The Big Buddha itself. Great views all around.


May 29, 2004

Hong Kong Day 2

Another busy day. After another multi-course lunch near campus, I did a 3-hour workshop. The evaluation forms from the participants were very positive but it was a very different experience from my end. Emotional restraint, respect for authority, a lack of history of talking in class or working in groups... all these combined to make it feel more like a church service than what I'm used to. Still, my hosts tell me it went well and I'm willing to believe them.

After the workshop we drove to Stanley on the southern end of Hong Kong Island. Did some looking through the open-air market nearby and felt the usual competing urges to buy everything in sight or nothing. I leaned more towards nothing and decided to buy a limited number of nice things each with a recipient in mind. (Now that I'm looking at this picture of pearls, though, I wish I had bought some rather than just staring at them.) After that we had a fabulous Thai dinner in Murray House, one of the original colonial buildings that was moved here from the central city to preserve it.

One more stop after dinner: Victoria Peak. From there you can look down at all of it. Pictures don't do it justice but here's one anyway.

I've uploaded 71 pictures from my first two days, and you can see them here.


May 28, 2004

Hong Kong Day 1

A very long flight... five movies long! Finally got to see Lost in Translation and The Station Agent. After 24 hours in transit, I slept like a cinderblock.

I woke up at dawn and took a walk around. There were people doing tai chi in the parks, people practicing singing and dancing, lots going on. I'm staying in Sha Tin, a new town in the New Territories. At the center of the city is a huge indoor shopping mall, a train station, and lots of high rise residences. If we were going to build the US all over from scratch to be less dependent on cars, this is the way to do it. One of my hosts, Harrison Yang, guided me from the hotel by train to the Chinese University of Hong Kong, site of the conference. The train system is very slick here. You buy a card and put it in your wallet. When you walk up to the turnstiles you simply put your wallet on the sensor and it deducts the appropriate fare. No need to pull out the card.

I had lunch with the department chair and the IT faculty...a combination of dim sum and main dishes. Much better food than our the SDSU faculty center!

They've set me up with an office on campus so that I can get work done in between things. I spent some time getting tomorrow's workshop finalized and then we were off for a whirlwind tour. First stop, Mong Kok, sort of a cross between Times Square and Blade Runner. Everyone walks very quickly here and when a sudden burst of rain came down the streets were jammed with people with umbrellas moving at breakneck speed. We walked through the Ladies Market, several blocks of stalls selling everything you could think of and a lot more. Then on to an indoor Computer Mart jammed with all kinds of toys. Then back into the car to the harbor where we hopped a ferry so that we could look back at the skyline on Kowloon. Every night at 8 there's a light show with lasers poking the sky from the tops of the buildings.

And from there we had a terrific dinner followed by a walk through Temple Street. More street stalls and fortune tellers... a feast for the eyes. It was getting close to 11 by now and time to get to bed. I felt amazingly unjetlagged all day, but as soon as I lay down I was out cold. I'm going to be here for a total of 6 days and I'm looking forward to it more than on most of my trips. There's an energy here that I haven't seen in Europe or at home. This is going to be a great trip!


May 25, 2004

Buddha's finger arrives in Hong Kong

According to CNN, the finger is on loan from Beijing and will be on display for 10 days. Some say it's a political gesture. I wonder which finger it is?

Maybe I'll get to see it since I'm leaving for Hong Kong tomorrow!

May 23, 2004

Today, I am a Bozo

Perhaps on other days, too, but today the evidence is clear. Here was my to do list for the day: 1) Take several boxes of books from my home office to my SDSU office; 2) Pick up Alex's classmate Will in South Park and drive them both to interview someone in Kensington for their video documentary on gay rights. 3) Go to a graduation party at the home of my first completed doc student. 4) Work on a grant proposal for NSF.

What demonstrates my bozoitude? First, we loaded up the car with books and headed to campus. We were almost there when I belatedly remembered that on Sundays the building elevator is turned off. No way am I dragging all these books up three flights of stairs... so mission aborted. Then, I memorized Will's address and printed out a map from Yahoo to get us there. Unfortunately I memorized it with the first two digits reversed, so we arrived 18 blocks north of where we were going and had to zig and zag around several canyons to get to the right place. That added ten minutes to the flight. We finally arrived at the address in Kensington for the interview and knocked on the door several times. No one there. I called June at home and had her check my email. Turns out that I had mapped the work address of our interviewee, but we had agreed to meet at her home... another schlep away. We arrived a half hour late.

After all these wrong turns and dead ends, I was looking forward to the party. June and I arrived at the house all gussied up, flowers in hand, and wondering why there weren't a lot of cars parked nearby. No sign, either, of the live music mentioned on the invitation. So when the door opened our surprised host told us that the party was yesterday.

Clearly I'm losing my marbles. I'm hoping it's post-semester traumatic stress rather than early onset senility. I'm wary of working on the grant proposal tonight, though, for fear of the streak continuing. Instead of NSF funding us for $300,000, I'm afraid I'll end up owing them money.

I'm going to bed early to put this day out of its misery.


May 21, 2004

Traffic Jam

Grading is done.

June rented Jutai, a 1991 Japanese movie known in English as Traffic Jam. It's one of those wonderful flicks that takes you completely away to somewhere completely different. In that way it's like my other faves London Kills Me and The Last Emperor. A family heads to the dad's home island over the New Year's holiday and gets stuck in a 100 km long gridlock along with other mishaps. It's about work vs life and discovering what really matters. Another review here. Recommended.


May 18, 2004

What's Hot in Cyberspace?

Today Drudge linked to the headline Nick Berg is Number One Search Term With Web Users, and that reminded me that I had stopped checking the Lycos 50 regularly as I used to. Building on my theme last week of listening to the world, here's a list of resources that show you what people are searching for and blogging about:

  • The Lycos 50. I don't know anyone who still uses Lycos as a search engine, but apparently they're out there. This is a weekly list of the top things being searched for, along with a Billboard-style indicator of how many weeks they've been on the list and which direction they're heading. Nick Berg tops the list.

  • Nick Berg is also #1 on the Yahoo! Buzz Index. This one breaks things down into short sublists by category: Overall, Television, Music, Sports, Actors and Actresses, Movies, and Video Games.

  • Google Zeitgeist shows the hottest 10 and coolingest 10 queries of the week, along with monthly and yearly summaries.

  • If you can't wait for a weekly summary, check MetaSpy to get a sampling of queries that MetaCrawler has handled during the last 15 seconds. You look at some of these things and have to wonder what the story is behind them.

  • Finally, the world of blogging. DayPop Top Posts shows the pages most widely linked to by bloggers each day. Lots of navelgazing blogging about blogging, and the rest is politics and techie toys. DayPop also list the news stories that are most linked-to.

  • Technorati also tracks the news items, current events, books and other blogs that bloggers are talking about. I actually like this one better than DayPop.

So there it is. You don't have to go anywhere or talk to anyone to see what's hot. Peeping into the world's thoughts has never been easier and it's tempting to spend a lot of time this way.

Alternatively we can all get back to work and do something that others will write about or search for. I better get back to grading.

May 17, 2004

They're Grading my Courses in India

Yup. I hate grading student work, even though most of what I squeezed out of students this semester looks quite good. Hate it.

So I followed a link that came in with the spam and found my way to College Prof OutSourcerors, a small firm in Bangalore. There they have rooms full of highly educated evaluators who are assigning grades in my three classes for about $4/hour. Since all work is turned in to me electronically and there are rubrics for each assignment, all I had to do was to FTP the student files and give OutSourcerors the course URLs. For $100 per course, I'm getting to watch Stargate SG-1 instead of deciding whether that WebQuest gets a 91 or a 92. Why didn't I do this years ago?

Well, I wish. But in wistfully looking for such a place (instead of actually grading) I came upon this article about White-collar Poetry Jobs Moving Overseas. Could happen.


May 14, 2004

Does This Template Make Me Look Fat?

One thing leads to another. I decided to try Blogger's new features, but to add comments I had to start from scratch because i had customized my old layout so much.

Then, since I chose to take advantage of Blogger's new capability of saving each old entry as a standalone document, my whole site got bigger.---> which pushed me over the 10Mb limit on free space at Earthlink ---> which forced me to pick up the whole blog and move it to one of my many paid-for servers. So here I am. A much easier transition than the one I went through from Radio Userland to Blogger. Do we like the new look?

May 06, 2004

IQ and the 2000 Election

OK... I've gotten over the 2000 election. Really. But THIS is a satisfying little chart.

The relationship between voting Democrat and higher IQ looks pretty clear. Ravens Advanced Progressive Matrices is a long established test of something or other that at least vaguely looks like intelligence. Because it's visual rather than verbal it's less susceptible to variations in English language ability.

I've spent all of my American life (minus two years in Africa) in states #1, 2, 4 and 14. In that order. Guess I'm heading into dumbth as I get older. [Thanks to MetaFilter for the link]

Postscript: Hmmmm. Perhaps this is too funny to be true. The American Assembler source is now backpedalling about the source of the IQ data. Thanks to an astute and cranky reader for pointing this out.


Listening to the World

That was an idea that appealed to me as a kid and it's what attracted me to listening to short wave radio. I used to imagine myself hanging out in space like the Star Child at the end of 2001, somehow being able to hear all the voices of the world at once. I know now that what I was hearing wasn't the voices of the world but rather the edited, naturally biased messages of the governments, companies and institutions that owned the stations. Not the voice of "the people", wherever they are.

I came across an experiment today in Global Consciousness. The idea is to provide a space for anyone to shout out a short message and know that it will be seen within minutes by anyone else on the site. Again, it's not really the globe talking... only those lucky few with computers, connectivity and leisure time. It's an interesting idea, though the global shoutouts aren't that riveting so far.

I wish there were something richer and more visual. In addition to posting short thoughts, I'd like to see how people are feeling each day. Imagine a screen with 50 emotion adjectives (like happy, disgusted, angry, serene). You check off 3 of them and click submit. Now imagine a globe on the screen that shows these emotions as different colors at the exact latitute and longitude of each participant. What would it look like as each day's news is absorbed? How would the colors change over the course of a year through seasons and holidays, or over the course of an election or a war? That would be fun to watch, even if it still only represents the feelings of the few, the proud, the connected.

That doesn't exist, so for now I'll content myself with listening to the world by proxy, filtered through the official media. You can see it all on one page with Newsmap.

Come to think of it, though, that moodglobe site wouldn't be that hard to do. Would it be interesting enough to others to sustain regular and widespread participation?


May 05, 2004


Kevin Drum puts it so well in The Washington Monthly:

"Bush styles himself a 'CEO president,' but the world is full to bursting with CEOs who have goals they would dearly love to attain but who lack either the skill or the fortitude to make them happen. They assign tasks to subordinates without making sure the subordinates are capable of doing them but then consider the job done anyway because they've 'delegated' it. They insist they want a realistic plan, but they're unwilling to do the hard work of creating one all those market research reports are just a bunch of ivory tower nonsense anyway."

Has our incurious Texan actually read the Taguba report YET?

May 04, 2004

Lessons from Warren Buffett

Wise words from the world's most savvy investor in response to a question from a 14-year old: "'It's better to hang out with people better than you,' said Buffett. 'Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you'll drift in that direction.'"

May 02, 2004

I'll Eat Manhattan

"Pac Manhattan is a large-scale urban game that utilizes the New York City grid to recreate the 1980's video game sensation Pac-Man. This analog version of Pac-man is being developed in NYU's Interactive Telecommunications graduate program, in order to explore what happens when games are removed from their 'little world' of tabletops, televisions and computers and placed in the larger 'real world' of street corners, and cities.

"A player dressed as Pac-man will run around the Washington square park area of Manhattan while attempting to collect all of the virtual 'dots' that run the length of the streets. Four players dressed as the ghosts Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde will attempt to catch Pac-man before all of the dots are collected.

Using cell-phone contact, Wi-Fi internet connections, and custom software designed by the Pac-Manhattan team, Pac-man and the ghosts will be tracked from a central location and their progress will be broadcast over the internet for viewers from around the world. "

What a hoot! We should do that here. The tree streets west of Balboa Park (Walnut down to Redwood) might be sufficiently rectilinear and untrafficked.

[Thanks to ArtLung for the link. Joe's is probably the only blog in the world that would ever have "Neal Stephenson" and "nasal cannula" on the same page.]


May 01, 2004

The Seven Brothers of Waterbury

Serendipity and the web. I was playing with Feedster and typed "Waterbury" into the search field. Not much interesting turned up until I got to The Seven Brothers of Waterbury. Zounds! They're making an indie film in my childhood back yard this summer.

Among the locations they'll be shooting in are my high school and Holy Land USA, the religious crudscape on Pine Hill where I played from pre-adolescence until College. I can't wait to see what they come up with.