Thursday, March 30, 2006
Web 2.0.1
There was a bug in the first release.

Newsweek is on it, so it must actually be real now (and mainstream. I'm starting to wonder if it can even be hip anymore).

Ugh. You know what I hate? Silicon Valley terms. Vocabulary out of Wired. What was XML and P2P is now AJAX and Web 2.0. I swear, this time it'll revolutionize everything.


Now that I've crabbed about Web 2.0, let me gush over one of its offspring.

Yelp has been rocking my world. I had heard of (and used) it before, but I never really got it. But this isn't surprising. Why would I be in any position to get what's upcoming and cool? I work on an "app for your mom."

A few weeks ago, I somehow stumbled back to it and saw Yelp Map-tastic (yes, technohipsters, that's a mashup. Gold star for you). And then I got it.

Moving to a new neighborhood, it's been invaluable. I got my hair cut the other day at Male Image (a very different experience from talking basketball with Don at the College Barbershop). I can find hardware stores. Clothing shops. And I get the highest-rated results in an arbitrary map window, which is ideal for finding things within walking distance.

But most importantly, Yelp has kept me from starving to death. I'm a bachelor in the city and can hardly operate a microwave, so I've kept from starving by taking leisurely walks to Lower Haight, the The Castro, and the upper Mission and trying out the restaurants.

Update: I've been thinking about it. Yelp is to Google Local as Google is to (circa 1998) AltaVista.

In the web search problem, the collecting and indexing problems are, while massive, the easy parts. The key insight of Google was PageRank, which solves the ordering-by-relevance problem, which is what kept web search from really being useful. Thank heavens there's a nice elegant little algorithmic solution to the problem.

There isn't a nice algorithmic solution like that for ranking location data. So what is the solution? Collaboration and participation. Get the users to generate that data for you. That's the novel thing about Yelp.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Checking in.
I worked from home this morning and am taking the last shuttle down to Google, so it's primo blogging time.

I have two more days of work until a week-long vacation. To say I need a vacation is an understatement. I'll be staying up in Napa for a few days, then heading down to Monterey, and then spending a few days in San Francisco.

I've also signed up for ZipCar (a car sharing company) recently. I have a discounted negligible annual fee, and there are a bunch of cars around my neighborhood, most of them available for $8.50 an hour (including gas). I'm going to see how that goes and contemplate selling my car at the end of the summer. I'm most excited about having access to a pickup truck. I'd never actually drive a pickup as my primary vehicle, but, you know, sometimes a guy just has to move things.
Saturday, March 18, 2006
I am thankful for...
...the mess to clean after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends.

Sorry. Needed a party quote, so I Googled for one, and I thought that one was touching. It comes from I Am Thankful For... by Nancie Carmody. I have no idea who that is.

Two weeks ago, I got an evite from "Sarah" (not a blogger, fake name used). I know two "Sarahs." One is a friend of my through a coworker and the other is my roommate. When I got the evite, I assumed it was from non-roommate Sarah. When I saw non-roommate Sarah, I said "Hey, I got your invitation. I'll probably be there, though my roommate had said something about having a party around St. Patrick's day, so we'll see."

She had no idea what I was talking about. The evite, I figured out, was for a party at my own house.

So we had a party last night. Sarah invited a bunch of her friends and I invited a bunch of mine (and encouraged them to bring whoever they liked). It was a really fun, diverse group. It was fun to watch Justin corner guests and engage them in conversation concerning theology or gender deconstruction. My other roommate (we'll call him Mike) spent his time in the living room, spinning. We'd occasionally get somebody at the door that neither Sarah, Mike, or I would know, who would explain exactly through whom at the party he or she knew us.

Many parties I get invited to are primarily Googler parties. Part of my goal in moving to San Francisco was to extend my social group beyond work contacts. We more than succeeded last night. It was really a lot of fun. There were so many people here over the course of the night. There was a huge pile of shoes in our front hallway.

Anyway, back to cleaning. Justin and I are spending the day hanging out in the city later.
Monday, March 13, 2006
How I spent my Monday vacation
I took my time getting out of bed, eventually showered, and read a few chapters from Writings on an Ethical Life. The one that I've been thinking about all day is "The Singer Solution to World Poverty." I've actually been thinking of it in terms of welfare economics, Jeffrey Sach's work, Bono (yeah, sorry), the collective action problem, and the role of inequality in catalyzing economic growth. Let me know if you'd like me to elaborate in another post.

I ate a bagel and and nutrition bar (which, of course, I swiped from a Google minikitchen) and then headed out the door without a plan. I figured I might go shopping or hit the Alcatraz tour.

I hopped on the Muni and rode it out to the Embarcadero. I then began walking. I walked a lot. I walked along the Embarcadero, climbed up Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower, went back down to Fishermans' Wharf and along the shorline to the Golden Gate Bridge, crossed the bridge, crossed back, wandered the Presidio, and then walked all the way back (partially on the very steep Divisidero) to my house in Duboce. The Gmaps Pedometer says it was a little under 15 miles in all, all done in my flat-footed Ben Sherman Comptons—not good walking shoes. I was out for five or six hours. My feet hurt now.

It was nice to have a nice, slow tour of the city. Walking the shoreline, all I could think about was the San Francisco level on Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4, which is a replica of the Embarcadero area and Pier 39.

I then came home and watched Garden State, which I've never seen before and, surprisingly, I really loved it (much like I really loved High Fidelity). Behind my stoic exterior, I've got a soft spot for bittersweet romantic comedies. I then watched Eddie Izzard's Dress to Kill. Otherwise, I've been hanging out at the house this evening, doing laundry and cleaning up.

Well, now you all know the exciting details of my dull little life. I'm going to go to bed now. I'm exhausted.
Sunday, March 12, 2006
Tourist in my own town
It's my birthday. The big two four.

I'm sitting in my desk at work. I stopped by to drop my car off in the parking garage. I'll be catching a CalTrain to get up to the city tonight.

This weekend wasn't particularly relaxing—I spent it cleaning out my place in the south bay and preparing for, cleaning for, having, recovering from, and cleaning up after a little birthday party I held on Saturday night. Mr. Party here ended up going to bed at one before everyone left (I'm on a bed-by-midnight schedule right now).

As a result, I'm taking tomorrow off work to have some birthday alone time. I'm going to be a San Francisco tourist for the day. If I really feel up to it, I'll visit Alcatraz. I don't want to be one of those people that lives in a city for years and never ends up doing half of the stuff there. I think this will also make me a better tour guide. My folks, specifically, are coming to visit at the end of the month.

Update: I called a cab to pick me up at the Googleplex at 8 to take me to catch the 8:23 train back, but he didn't show up until 8:15, so I ended up taking a $20 trip to get the station, watch the train go by, and come back. The cabbie was kind enough to offer to pick me up again at 9 to make the next train for free.

Sigh. What a hassle.
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Take my own advice...
Last night, while in a sentimental mood, I was reading through old blog entries (from where this blog used to be hosted). It's kind of an odd experience to read your own words when so much time has passed, as I don't remember writing some of the stuff. I find myself laughing at my own jokes.

Anyway, on March 15th, 2005, almost a year ago now, I answered a set of questions. The tenth question was pertinent to my current vacation decision.
10. What would be your ideal 2-week vacation?
Either a bike tour (along the Missisippi, Great Lakes, tour of Belgium, maybe) or a canoe trip.
It's certainly too cold in Canada right now to go on a big canoe trip, and I'm not going to Belgium by myself. But I've wanted to do a big epic multi-day bike tour for a long while. Someday, I'd like to do the full-on cross-country trip.

By taking a week off, I could have 9 days (5 days plus 2 weekends) to bike to Los Angeles on the Pacific Coast Trail and then fly back. I'm not in great biking shape right now, but with that amount of time, I could do it in a little over 60 miles a day.

Hmm... I'll try to put the bike together tomorrow.
Friday, March 10, 2006
Oh hell, blog dump...
I've got a bunch of things to say, but I've been doing scrappy little entries. Forget that. It's time for the blog dump (if there was a way to textually represent a large, booming, echoing voice, I would have used it there).

So, to recap:

1. Vacation. Need to take one. Who wants to go with?
2. Goat. I got a goat.

Continuing on:

c. We had a 5k at work. It was supposed to happen during Mardi Gras, but that got rained out. So it got moved to Wednesday. I ran it. Because of the Google Page Creator launch, I've hardly run at all. But I have an incredible ability to hardly train for things and still pull them off (see the 1999 American Birkebeiner, or every Canterbury or Crazylegs run I've ever done). My wafer-cookie-and-Diet-Coke training regimen really paid off, and I came in dead middle (35th out of 70 in the men's category).

iv. A long time ago, I wrote a post about subscription audio services. I never signed up for one until now. I'm trying out Yahoo! Music Unlimited for a while. It's useful at work, where I'm going crazy listening to everything on my iPod over and over again.

6. I've been taking the Google shuttle back and forth from San Francisco. Despite the length, it's tolerable. It's actually good reading time. To get to the shuttle, I'm a MUNI (subway) rider, and I wear a ratty olive green jacket and a black ski cap. It occurred to me the other day when I was unshaven and unshowered that I was probably one of the more intimidating looking people in the car.

7.2. I got a birthday cake at work. They tried to make it a surprise, but I knew it was coming as another coworker had his birthday on Tuesday. A coworker dragged me to a conference room and their "surprise!" was met with my "oh, f***." They sang happy birthday, so, instead of just standing there and taking it, I yelled "I want three-part harmony!" and proceeded to lay my own counterpoint on top. On Tuesday, they had asked the other guy what he wanted to accomplish in the coming year. He listed technologies he'd like to improve and read up on. When asked what I wanted to accomplish in the next year, I responded "World peace, an end to hunger and poverty, and a Bush impeachment." We'll see how that pans out. Gotta set your goals high.

n. I ran again today, but my Garmin was out of batteries. I still have to upload the route from the 5k. I need to get back into the habit.
My birthday present.
I got my birthday present from my mom today in the mail.

It was a goat.

I got a goat for my birthday.

In actuality, it wasn't a real, live goat. It was a goat purchased through the ELCA Global Barnyard program, which buys animals for needy families.

I'm more than happy with it.
Vacation, had to get away
Cue the Go-Gos.

So I'm looking to take a vacation, probably right around the start of April.

I need two things:
  1. Suggestions on places to go.
  2. People to go with (of course, here I'm looking for people that I actually know outside the blogosphere). I'll meet you there, as soon as we determine where there is.
Leave comments.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
My little town...
Thank heavens that Governor Doyle has been there to play veto goalie for the last few years, blocking atrocious things coming out of the Republican-controlled Wisconsin State Legislature (concealed-carry law, local property tax freeze, etc.)

But I was really dismayed to see that my state will now be holding a state referendum on November 7th to put a ban on gay marriage and civil unions into the state constitution. First, I don't agree with it (really? A guy that lives next to the Castro opposes a gay marriage ban?), and second, it's such an ugly California-proposition-style end-run around the legislative process. But I feared that people around my hometown and home state wouldn't feel similarly and Wisconsin would become one of the first purple (well, bluish-purple) states to pass one of these things.

So I've been more than happy to be reading the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune (yes Mom, I visit the page every day). On Sunday was this piece all about local legislators from Central Wisconsin opposing this amendment. Today, the Wausau Daily Herald had Conflict on gay marriage hits area, which, in addition to being interesting, has this little bit in the sidebar:

Organizers of Fair Wisconsin are seeking volunteers to help with their campaign against a gay marriage ban. Those who are interested may attend a training session at 5:30 p.m. today at First Presbyterian Church, 406 Grant St., Wausau.

That's right. At the church. I'm so proud.

Update: From the comments: Fair Wisconsin's No On The Amendment Blog. Shira is a contributor. I knew her in college.
Sunday, March 05, 2006
On getting recognized as Doctor Awesome on the street
I'm on my inflatable mattress in my room in Duboce Triangle. It and my bike stand are the only pieces of furniture here with me. I've also got a few shirts in the closet, a small suitcase, a laptop, and Marin.

I had gone, earlier in the evening, to a party up in Sausalito in Marin. It was a friend-of-a-friend-type invite, and ended up being a lot of people I didn't know very well. My designated-driver status didn't help me loosen up to them very well (my fabled personal-space bubble collapses with sufficient alcohol consumption). A large number of them were Europeans living in the states, which didn’t at all help my already-existing city-rural cultural divide. I spent most of the party fielding questions about Google from a few people which, really, isn’t all that fun (now that Google Page Creator is out, I can’t as easily use my dismissive "I work on things I can’t tell you about"). I go to parties to get away from work.

Home from the party and back at my place, my roommates wern’t around, so, to pass the time before bed, I assembled my bike stand and put it up on the wall. Outside my window, a car alarm went off.

This, of course, was annoying. So I peeked out the window to see what was going on. A guy was standing outside an expensive-looking car, and apparently there was someone inside. Damn yuppies. The honking alarm was getting annoying, so I grabbed my jacket and went outside.

"Hey, what’s the deal?" I asked. The guy explained the situation: this woman (who he didn’t know) was apparently drunk and upside down, feet on the window, inside her car, and he was trying to get her attention. Scarily, she appeared to have driven herself there.

A friend of hers soon came up and started trying to coax her to give up the keys. The first guy had seen me come out of the house. He was a neighbor, so he introduced himself. Upon further conversation, he made the connection that we both worked at Google. He mentioned what project he worked on, and I mentioned mine.

"Wait, so you’re Nathan, right?"

I was confused, but acknowledged the fact.

"So then you’re Doctor Awesome, right?"

Through coworkers and his being a loyal Doctor Awesome reader (seriously, he is. I referenced a number of my previous posts from months ago and he remembered them), he knew me, despite the fact we had never met. And he knew a lot about me. An eerily large amount.

It turned out, in fact, to be Chris Wetherell of Massless. We ended up talking for about an hour there, on the street, at one in the morning, and got along pretty well. He had just gotten back from a gig.

Randomness. Almost meetingPaulzyesque.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
Pee-my-pants awesome.
I got The Sunlandic Twins and Satanic Panic in the Attic in the mail yesterday.

Sunlandic Twins is okay, but Satanic Panic is pee-my-pants awesome.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?