Archive for the ‘news’ Category

CES 2011

Monday, January 10th, 2011

A long time friend of mine saw my Google chat status and said you’re still going to CES?! No, well, ok, yes. I haven’t been to CES in 11 years, but decided this was the year I would return to see their first Sports & Fitness Tech conference and to do a write up of my favorite existing and future fitness tech from CES.

I haven’t been to Vegas in a long time. I think the last time I went it was to see Justin Timberlake in late 2007. That was fun. This was also fun, but much less debauchery. I had a really nice dinner with an old co-worker, drank a very conservative amount of alcohol, placed a $20 bet on red in roulette (and won :) and otherwise spent the time working. Which, oddly enough, was a nice change of pace for Vegas.

I guess it’s been long enough that CES was exciting again for me. I didn’t see the entire floor in all the halls, but it was mostly 3D TVs and cameras, wireless home systems, some touchless user interfaces (all still somewhat rough and imperfect), electric vehicles, health & fitness & mommy tech, and iPod/Pad/Touch accessories out the wazoo. I saw one session for software that lets you touchlessly control your computer using a regular webcam, but the guy was showing a video of it instead of demo-ing it live (it’s not very convincing if you don’t demo it live).

Audi's e-tron at CES 2011
Audi’s e-tron at CES 2011

I saw a couple of the glasses-less 3D tvs and they’re cool, but they have such a limited range of view — you have to stand right in front of it in the center in order for it to work and it’s still imperfect. The GE smart home wasn’t as smart as I wanted it to be, but was interesting from an energy efficiency standpoint. With a little communication module for your energy efficient appliances, you could see, for example, how much each load of laundry costs you in real time. The smart meters utility companies are starting to install signal when prices are at the peak, low, or midrange so your washer won’t run unless it gets the signal that it’s the cheapest rate, and if that rate changes mid-load, it’ll adjust itself to save you money. You can override this of course if you desperately need to wash something. And your city needs to have upgraded to the new smart meters in order to use this technology, but seeing the hard data like that all day long could really change your habits.

The thing I was most excited about was Omek, a gesture recognition engine that is faster than the Kinect and versatile. It’s vendor agnostic and hardware agnostic. With any 3D camera and their engine + SDK, you could develop killer gesture recognition apps. They’re working on a fitting app so home shoppers can virtually try on clothes. I’m so excited about that. My short little ass’ll have an easier time finding clothes that’ll fit :)

Kids these days…

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

I’m sure you’ve all read about the teenaged girls that got charged with disseminating child porn because they sent nude photos of themselves to other kids. Think that was about mid January. When I was in socal on the weekend just after that news broke, I asked my fifteen year old son if any of his female friends had ever sent naked photos of themselves to him. He said no.

The next day I get a random email from a teenaged girl. I ignored the first one — she just sent a head shot, no message. Then she sent me a blank email. Then she sent me three photos of her. One of her just lying on a bed, one of her pulling her shirt up to her chest, then the last one of her in her underwear. I emailed her right away and told her she had the wrong email address. She replied she was sorry and embarrassed. I told her I’d just delete the photos, but did she really want to send them to whoever she meant to. Sorry, but it’s the mom in me I added.

Seriously now. I’m all for healthy sexual expression, but you have to be aware of what you’re getting into — you have to accept the risk that those photos are most likely going to be shared with someone other than the intended recipient. And if you’re careless, they’re going to end up in the wrong inbox entirely.

I was telling a friend of mine the troubles I’ve been having lately with the 15 year old. His other mom called me last week to pretty much just yell at me that I wasn’t strict enough. And she’s right but that’s my reactionary response to the super strictness I grew up with — and where did that lead to?! Trouble. I don’t get what he’s going through though. Maybe it’s just being that age. He has so much that I didn’t have — a family that expresses love and open communication. Maybe those are the things I fixate on having missed. Maybe there are other things he’s missing that I’m not that aware of. All I know is that parenting is hard — and I think my kid is generally a good kid. I don’t know what I’d do if he was more troubled.

One of the things I’ve realized recently is that parents aren’t any more mature than their kids. Sometimes they’re less mature. You grow up looking to these adult figures for guidance and support, then you become mature and you look at them and think…huh…I’m more responsible than that! I wonder what Josh’ll turn into it, but whatever it is, I hope it makes him happy. And if he’s more responsible and settled than me, I’d be even happier.

Bird “strikes”

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

I’m sure you’ve all heard about the plane that landed on the Hudson Thursday. I saw it on the TV at the gym yesterday, but I’m a little behind on my news so I didn’t read the articles about it until today and kept hearing about these “bird strikes”. Sometimes I have a bit of gullibility and take things literally so in my head I was thinking that birds were purposely and maliciously attacking planes. You know strike as in to strike back.

So I Googled it and found the wikipedia article on bird strikes and was elucidated (that’s not a word). I think it’s a misnomer. We should call them airplane kill or bird crashes or bird bumps — anything that would make clear the fact that these are unintentional. Birds are not actually trying to sabotage planes and kill humans.

That wikipedia article has some gruesome photos — the worst one is of a deer caught in the landing gear (I don’t even have the heart to link to that photo). I’m so disturbed by it, I can’t stop looking at it!

The fascinating thing is that I fly a lot — probably at least 12 times a year I take a round trip flight somewhere. Most often to southern California to visit my son and sister, and I’ve been doing that since I moved to SF about 9 years ago. All those trips and this is the first time I’ve ever even heard of a bird strike. I’m ok with that. In fact, I should probably consider myself lucky (or blissfully ignorant :)

Your corduroy jacket makes me cry

Friday, December 19th, 2008

I’m fascinated by this article in New Scientist about the discovery of the first cases of touch-emotion synaesthesia. Synaesthesia is when you experience a concurrent sensation along with the sensation you’re supposed to be feeling. So in this case, these two subjects feel emotions along with tactile sensations. So AW feels denim and gets depressed. HS touches dry leaves and feel disgusted — not disgust for the dry leaves, but a general feeling of disgust.

I’m always interested in how the brain processes its input. This sort of cross wiring is fascinating. And as a writer, is pure poetic fodder. I just read a novella about a color-sound synthaesthete in the current issue of Santa Monica Review called “Time Trials” by Gregory Spatz which was great so finding this article felt especially timely.

The thing is, that it’s something we all do — combine sensations. The proximity of those brain centers helps faciliate this. Those connections between the part of the brain that processes emotions and the part that processes tactile sensation are in our brains too, except ours are dulled and pruned away. Most of us have a fear of sharp objects, cuddling of soft pillows feels good, and silk feels sexy. But for us, these are just metaphors.

Can you imagine though, having some piece of fabric or some other material that you can just touch and it would make you happy. Not just feed good because it’s soft or pretty, but actually make you feel emotionally happy. That would be a hell of a rabbit’s foot.

Sex is last

Monday, December 15th, 2008

This was eye opening. An article in the current W magazine talks about how plastic surgery patients used to care about how soon they could hit the sack again, and now it’s not even a question the plastic surgeons get asked about anymore.

That’s not the most interesting part. The most interesting thing is the women’s priority list: work, working out, and forever looking young.

“Interest in fitness and nutrition has supplanted sex as the No. 1 concern in many patients’ minds.”

That’s their no. 1 concern?! What about, will my face heal? Or how long will it hurt?

Patients get upset if they can’t go back to work after a few days, but are relieved when they can’t have sex for two weeks. For these women, their sexual identity is less tied to actual sex than it is how attractive other people find them — and we all know, youth is sexy.

Plastic surgery “…is such a totally self-oriented procedure most of the time. It’s not necessarily related to the other people in their lives.” Women don’t go to have face lifts and tummy tucks because their husbands or boyfriends ask them to, they go because they feel like they need to in order to stay desirable. Which used to be associated with sex, but is apparently less so nowadays.

I found the whole article bizarre — I don’t read W and found the link to it off another website. I can’t imagine being so constrained by some pre-fab notion of beauty that I virtually spend my entire life trying to attain it. And from what it sounds like, at the cost of my human relationships, too. Those patients didn’t ask any questions like how soon can I pick up my child again, or have a cocktail with my friends again, and are relieved if they can’t have sex with their partners. Nope, they just want to go back to the office and the gym as soon as humany possible without destroying all the beautifying work the surgeon did.

Bettie Page: Pop culture icon / bleeding edge feminist

Friday, December 12th, 2008

I love Bettie Page. I loved her as soon as I discovered her back in college when I was intellectually, though not physically, exploring my sexuality by soaking in as much information as I could, including a lot of visuals. I love her because she is unabashedly sexy. She’s not shy or reserved about being nude — even after her Christian conversion, she never felt any guilt or awkwardness about it.

I love that she was just being herself because she didn’t know who else to be or any other way to be than herself. She posed for pictures sometimes in little outfits that she made herself and thought it was a hoot the things men wanted photos of her doing. She didn’t think it was pornographic or disgusting — she found it amusing. She had fun! Completely herself — unreserved and lacking self consciousness, she was herself, and I think that’s what makes her so incredibly sexy.

In an era when women didn’t have the freedom we do now, she did her own thing. And she was way ahead of the curve with her attitudes about nudity and sexual desire. I wish everyone felt so comfortable.

I hope she got the financial reward she deserved in her later years when she finally realized the cult following she had. And will always have. RIP Bettie Page.

Hope!

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

Obama won! And we will soon have an intelligent and articulate man in the White House again. Someone who truly believes we’re all equal and really wants to make things better for everyone regardless of who they are. Never in my life have I felt so much anxiety about an election before. I couldn’t concentrate all day worrying about how it would all turn out. And honestly it turned out even better than I had expected with McCain conceding even before we’d finished dinner. It feels amazing. It feels hopeful and I’m excited and relieved and I think a lot of other people around here are as well. I could hear shouting and excitement in the street earlier and can still hear a little of it now. January 20th can’t come fast enough.

The subway stripper

Friday, July 11th, 2008

I love this story! A subway stripper in Chile was arrested for trying to strip near the presidential palace. She strips on the subway cars; the media call her the “Metro Goddess”. And she’s doing it — to make Chile a less prudish place.

I love this idea because I think sexual repression is unnatural. We’re designed to procreate. I’m not a hedonist — I don’t think people should be running around trying to procreate however they can, but I do feel strongly that people should feel comfortable thinking and talking about sex. With friends, family, but especially with your partner. Think about it — if you can frankly talk to your partner about sex, what can’t you talk about with him?

And what about your child(ren)? Do you really want them growing up into their sexually mature years learning and believing what their school friends tell them about sex? Like how you can’t get pregnant the first time you have sex, or how oral sex isn’t really sex — kids believe this shit! And the list of other things they believe is long — here’s just one page full of them.

I’m a big fan of education, openness, and honesty. Teaching kids and uninformed adults about sex, contraception, etc. so they can make educated and informed choices when they need to. I think anytime you try to make something natural seem unnatural, you end up encouraging secrecy and deception — because if you make it bad, it’s not going to stop people from doing it, it’s just going to change the way that they do it. Another good thing about being comfortable with your own sexuality is that it makes it easier to accept other people’s sexuality too — whatever that may be.

So hurray to the subway stripper! I wish we had poles on the Bart :)

What I learned about George Carlin

Friday, June 27th, 2008

So I’m sure you all know that George Carlin passed away this week. I’m not a big follower of comedians, but I have seen some of his stuff and found him funny. One of the first videos I watched after his death was his classic Seven Dirty Words routine. And being someone who swears a lot, loves language, and enjoys people who defy convention, I immediately loved it. I have an image in my head of Carlin as a white bearded, bald guy. But in this clip he’s young and handsome and seems more jovial than I ever remember seeing him — like the world hasn’t quite worn him down and jaded him yet.

Add to it the fact that this routine got him arrested and got the radio station that broadcast his uncensored routine sued in a first amendment stir and it makes it all the more charming.

A friend of mine was saying how when he was a kid his parents had vinyl records of Carlin’s routines — vinyl! I think it’s not uncommon to see someone differently after his / her death. I always thought of George Carlin as a funny grumpy old man, and now I’ve got a different, more interesting image of him in my head. Though it’s too bad it takes death for me to soften my heart and open up my mind.

Some links to more informative articles:

Consuming our morbid thoughts away

Monday, June 9th, 2008

This doesn’t seem like new research because it seems to me that it’s a given that eating and shopping are relatively common coping mechanisms. It’s not unusual to hear stories about women addicted to shopping or food. I suppose men share these same problems but perhaps 1) less numerously, 2) less excessively, or 3) less conspicuously (but I haven’t researched this so I’m just stabbing blindly).

There was a recent New Scientist article about how thinking about death or dying can spur buying or consuming behavior. Students wrote essays about either their own death or a trip to the dentist (I think it’s funny that the options were death or dentist). After these kids wrote these essays, they found that people who had written about their death ate more cookies when given the opportunity, and also hypothetically purchased more items than those who wrote about the dentist.

But they also evaluated the students’ self esteem. The ones that had low self esteem and had to write about death were more excessive in their behaviors — ate more cookies, bought more things — as a way of “subconsciously escaping self awareness, which is heightened by thoughts of dying“. Those with high self esteem weren’t really affected by the thoughts of death.

For those affected, it wasn’t just the thought of their own death, but watching clips of death related news also stimulated this consumption. I love the quote at the end the piece which has one of the research professors (who, btw, has a PhD in psychology and is a professor of Marketing at his university) saying, gosh, I hope marketing folks don’t exploit this by placing food ads right after the news. Really? But isn’t that your job — to teach people how to best market their goods?

Thoughts of death make us eat more cookies full article at New Scientist

My favorite drug

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

My favorite hormone is back in the news! And this time it might cure some mental illnesses. Oxytocin stimulates pair bonding, affection, and breast milk. It helps you associate good feelings with social interactions and to be able to empathize with others. Mothers who have their oxytocin production interfered with stop nursing and caring for their young; children who are neglected in their youth grow up with stunted oxytocin receptors. Researchers now think that oxytocin could help those with mental illnesses that affect sociability or empathy (like autism).

It’s coincidental that I just read Above the Thunder and was thinking that I must have a lack of oxytocin in my system — my mothering and nurturing instincts are low.

It’s also coincidental that I was just talking to a friend of mine about how some really intelligent tech geeks are sort of autistic in that they aren’t very good socially — they can’t read signals, they don’t know how to interract with people, or sometimes even don’t know why they should bother.

Perhaps we could all use a little extra oxytocin: I love you, you love me; let’s take care of our family.

Burning Man sex and out of body porn

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

I love this Violet Blue article on Burning Man. It cracks me up. I’ve been to burning man twice and will probably never go back. I think it’s vaguely cool that people are so into it, and every year as the buzz about it grows and it gets closer and closer to Labor Day weekend, I get the slightest itch to go back. But I’ll never scratch it — it’s just not my scene. I love the art, I love the enormous installations, I love the community feel, I love the communal environmental activism, I even sort of love the playa and don’t mind being covered in dirt all the time. But it’s a little too hip for me, a few too many people that are too into it, and a little too much effort to be in costume for an entire week. It’s like one big rave where everyone looks and is cool, and I don’t do either well.

In other news: out of body experiences scientifically explained. Now we know that it’s not a) a psychic phenomenon, and b) it’s not just something that happens to loonies. Just imagine the applications in porn!

Shrinks vs. God

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

I love this quote by Ann Coulter: Liberals go to therapy. Conservatives go to church. (Right Wing News compiled her best quotes from last year — most of them are too long, but some of them are real gems). It’s so true, isn’t it? Priests, pastors, confessors — they’re really like shrinks (is shrink a derogatory term?)

I stopped seeing mine. Not for any particular reason other than I’ve been too lazy to call my insurance to see what it’d cost me to keep seeing her. But I also felt like I’d go in and just sort of sit there, not sure what to talk about. We spent the first session talking about my mother, then she never came up again and she was the reason I was there in the first place!

I had four sessions with her and in two of them she asked if I thought I had a drinking problem. And I said no both times (btw, I’m quite confident I do not have a drinking problem). So when I woke up on the morning of my 4th scheduled apointment with a raging hangover, I called in sick — I wasn’t about to go in there after I’d just told her I didn’t have a drinking problem, hung over on a school morning! I’m sure she would’ve been suspect of the validity of my previous denials. Besides, I was too hungover to talk.

So I’ve started to blog about more personal things again. Mostly because I’m no longer worried about future employers finding this blog. If you search for me, there isn’t anything I’m really ashamed of online. No naked photos of me (at least none with my face — haha, just kidding, potential future employer!), no stories about late night drugfests (just the occasional boozefest with friends), no compromising videos, no crime or violence. Just my raw voice. Oozing with sarcasm and heavy handed with profanity. It’s me! Yay!

I read this in the news today about a settlement in racial harassment suit against a health clinic. It obliquely reminded me of some of Ann Coulter’s quotes. Racism in code words — think about it — that someone would come up with coded language (not very well coded) to deride someone else because of race. Sneak attack racism. Who the fuck comes up with this stuff? And how much hate must you have in your black coal heart to think this is ok — in a place of healing even. Tsk tsk.

Drawbacks of democracy

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

So I was reading this today about the Philip Atkinson article on The Family Security Foundation, Inc site. I thought it was hilarious and well written — it reminded of Swift’s A Modest Proposal. I thought it was a parody, a commentary on Bush. But after seeing his treatise on democracy, I think the man is serious.

The funny thing is that I can understand the stance he’s arguing from — that selfish people don’t always want what’s best for a community as a whole. That sometimes what the “popular” opinion is, isn’t always the best opinion. It sort of sounds antithetical to the recent revelations on crowd theory — how the aggregated wisdom of many people results in the optimal decision, but it’s not. If you listen to the most vociferous groups in the United States today, they are a homogenous group, far too keenly aware of each other’s opinions of them. They lack diversity, independence, and are often rallying around a centralized point. They voted Bush in, they shut down valid scientific research, they fear sex education, they don’t want to allow all people equal rights…shall I go on? If that’s the popular opinion, then yes, democracy doesn’t seem to work for the good of the community as a whole.

I can’t remember who it was, but someone was recently saying that liberals don’t make enough babies — how are we going to fare when there are so many fewer of us than them? Well, we’re fewer, but like a million times smarter. It seems like that should count for something…sadly it doesn’t seem to be enough.

On the run

Friday, June 15th, 2007

I love this story about a woman who literally chases down her identity thief. Karen Lodrick runs into the woman who stole her identity 6 months ago while they’re ordering the same drink at Starbucks. And the crazy bitch lives three blocks from her. San Francisco is a small, small world.

Part cow, part human

Friday, May 18th, 2007

Conservative Americans are gonna love this: embryonic research gets a boost in the UK — there’s a new bill that would allow licensed researchers to create animal-human hybrid embryos. I especially love that this bill also includes getting rid of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority at the same time.

E-Gold

Tuesday, May 1st, 2007

Damn…E-Gold charged with money laundering. They’ve been investigating it for some time now, but the indictment is in with a nice doomsday quote from the FBI. I wonder what this means for the future of anonymous money, though I’m fairly certain that at some point, there will be no such thing as anonymous money. Every financial transaction will leave some sort of trace back to you.

Your data isn’t safe

Friday, March 9th, 2007

I’ve already mentioned that I’ve been thinking a lot about anonymity lately and today I was reading about a Tor hack on securityfocus.com. Doesn’t this totally defeat the purpose of Tor?! Why is it so difficult to be maintain anonymity? And why is it so easily taken away?

I was at a talk recently about the online black market. The speaker showed us some realtime irc “ads”. Criminals claim they have X number of credit cards, bank account logins, etc for sale or trade. They post a few so buyers can see they’re serious. There was lots of personal information flashing across the screen during the demo. I saw a guy with an Irvine address and thought, poor fella, I should call him. And tell him what? Oh, I was at a talk and those damn hackers had your name and address and bank info and everything.What? No, I’m not one of them. I just thought you should know.

In my early 20’s, I dated a guy that used to do this kind of crap. And he didn’t even think twice about it. No moral qualms. Spent a lot of money that wasn’t his to buy a lot of things he then traded for more illegally gained things. It bothers me when people think that it’s ok to steal from big corporations because the little guy doesn’t feel it. Well, he does — he has to at the very least deal with his credit card company or bank and waste a countless amount of time sorting out the fraud. And eventually, stealing from corporations trickles down to all of us one way or another.

Have you read about all the personal data theft that’s gone on recently? Look at the TJX data loss results. And personal data loss isn’t uncommon. A couple of years ago, I got a letter from Time Warner saying they’d lost data disks with old employees’ personal data on them. Did I want a free credit check to make up for it?

There was a recent thread on one of the mailing lists I’m on about an atm scam to steal atm card info and pins, and how easy this is to do. The security speaker I mentioned above said he doesn’t even bank online — not because online banking was inherently insecure (because online banking is not inherently insecure), but because he wanted to keep his risk exposure low. I can’t imagine giving up online banking. Convenience trumps privacy and security too often. And I’m aware, but I’m just as bad as you about this. I don’t give out information if I can get away with it, but if it’s between giving up my ss# versus driving 30 miles to go somewhere in person, I might give up the soc depending on my mood that day. If it’s giving up my soc versus paying a deposit — I’ll always pay the deposit. Give up my last name on a first date to someone who doesn’t already know it? Forget it. We’ve already talked about where googling me leads to — my utter mortification.

I had to take Mr. Number Two to be cremated recently (he died on Feb. 22nd, 2007). They wanted my birth date and I didn’t want to give it to them. What the hell do you need my birth date for? They said if they prescribe any medication for my pets. Since my rat was dead and not likely to need meds, they let me leave it blank. But I knew I’d take Number 1, the 3rd in and was wondering if they’d ask for it when I got medication for him. They didn’t. Which made me wonder why they wanted it in the first place.

Eureka!

Wednesday, June 7th, 2006

I’ve finally discovered what proteins are responsible for my post meal/post candy splurge wipe outs: orexin! I’ve been wanting to find out for years (not enough to try to look it up, but enough to be excited about finding this article two days ago :)

Book burning

Thursday, June 16th, 2005

A few weeks ago, Human Events Online (The National Conservative Weekly) came up with its list of the Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries. I find the list really interesting — a few communist books, one of the core feminist books, a couple philosophy books, a book on male sexuality, Hitler’s Mein Kampf, and a couple of others. It astounds me that in this day and age, in our country, people still figuratively burn books. To me, this is the equivalent of having someone say you’re too dumb to be exposed to the dangerous ideas in these books. It assumes you don’t have the power or the ability to think critically for yourself. Writing a non-fiction book is like having your say, sharing your ideas with anyone who’ll read it. For a site that puportedly supports individual freedom, having had this list created seems somewhat ironic. What is it that Jesus calls his followers? Oh, sheep.

The other irony is that lists like these only make books on them that much more tantalizing. By the way, the 15 judges that came up with this list were 14 males:1 female.