Travel time to major cities

GEM: The Global Environment Monitoring unit is a European commission that makes up on of six units in IES: The Institute for Environment and Sustainability. The IES is a group of scientists (about 65 according to their about page) that are devoted to making sure development in Europe and the world is done is such a way that it doesn’t cause problems. Today I stumbled upon a project they did called, “Travel time to major cities: A global map of Accessibility” and boy isn’t it beautiful? Click on it for a much larger version, and click though to the project for information about what it means and what it doesn’t.

Travel time to major cities (in hours and days) and shipping lane density
Travel time to major cities (in hours and days) and shipping lane density

legend

The New York Times and my brother

My brother was quoted recently in the New York Times … again.

“We used their surface and projected the truth onto it.”

He didn’t actually say that but the sentiment is there. They also got his age wrong. A few years prior they wrote an article about the high school he went to. The reporter talks about him a bit but only has once quote.

“So, is there a proposal, or did you just want to open the discussion?”

And again a number of years prior (this is like 10 years ago now) we have a quote from an article about the boy scouts in Park Slope.

“Not really”

I’m fairly certian he’s mentioned in one more artcle about a town meeting her went to that was on domestic violence in specific communitites, but I’m sure I’ll be corrected soon enough. The quotes don’t do him justice, but the articles might, they’re not bad reads. I’m proud of him. Not for being in the newspaper but for doing things that he believes in. It’s just cool that they’re newspaper worthy.

-Francis

PS (I got more updates in the works but I’ve been a bit sick.)

Miracle Berry Tablets

Me and Miracle Berry Tablets
Me and Miracle Berry Tablets

Miracle fruit or berries makes sour things taste sweet. An effect that apparently is quite amazing.

From the supplier’s website.
The active ingredient in the Miracle Berry Fruit, known as Miraclulin coats the tongue and blocks out the taste bud receptors which are responsible for sour, bitter and acidic flavours. The outcome is that all foods which taste sour, bitter or acidic miraculously come to taste sweet.

Once I was told you could solve the problem with transporting “Miracle” berries by freeze drying them (they spoil quickly) and that you could buy said berries online for $20 dollars, I immediately bought them.

It comes with 10 pills each formerly being 3 berries. Think geek says you should cut them in half for twenty servings. The official supplier claims that even fresh berries start loosing their effects due to age and that problem doesn’t exist after it’s been freeze dried.

I’m going to have to try it to find out =)

-Francis

Hope

I’ve met so many good and nice people over the past few days I can hardly believe there is still one more to go. I want to thank the presenters (even the girl who had the Zuse room before me who had trouble with her crowd), I want to thank TELEPHREAK and GiD for the projector, and all the people who learned something from me today. (Including those two drunk couples on the train home. I couldn’t have hoped for a better response to my cards.) I can’t tell you how good it feels to teach something again.

And I’m even invited to a dinner tomorrow night, chemists make wonderful chefs.

-Francis

PS Oh and you better belive I’ve got a backlog of stuff to share.

Subway Search Education

This morning I put a few more of my Subway Search Information cards out on the subway. Sticking them on the sides of existing advertising. (I stay away from the maps and anything remotely like a PSA – no need to block any of those.) People always look at me funny when I do it. I always assume it’s because they figure I’m trying to sell something. So I usually do it right before I get off the train or late at night when there’s not a lot of people around, but this time it wasn’t in the middle of the morning rush hour. We had just pulled into Jay St and while everyone was rushing on and off of the train I slipped the cars out of my pocket and put two on one side of the car and two on the other. Except while I was putting the last one up (in a vacant ad spot near the door) a guy grabbed my hand and took the card away from me.

I had my headphones on, so I just looked at him.

He took the card and flipped it over, read the front for a while. (You know, the side with a big picture and the phrase “Did you know you can refuse a subway search?”) and then flipped it over and took some time reading the back. The seat next to him was empty so I sat down, took off an ear of my headphones and said he could keep it.

The people in front of us kept looking at me, and then up at the other post card I had put near the ceiling. I’m glad I put it back side facing out so they could read what it’s about. I don’t think many people bother to turn them over and I don’t think people need a pretty picture to get the point. I mean the back has a lot more to it and is probably more interesting during the boring commute to work. They guy finished up and put the card back up where I was trying to stick it. Nodded at me and then just stared forward like everyone else. I put my head phones back on sat back and enjoyed the ride.

A few stops later someone new was in front of me and grabbed the card from behind me. He picked it up and spent a few minutes reading over the back. The people who had seen me put it up started looking at me again, I just smiled and sat back. The guy flipped it over a few times and then he pocketed it! I couldn’t help but grin a little. I’m not so sure about the first guy, but this second one obviously was learning something. He seemed genuinely interested which makes me wonderfully happy. =)

Despite my personal thoughts on Security Theater (that’s actually a good link) this card is kept generally neutral and doesn’t question if the subway searches keep us safer or not. (They don’t!) They do explore why you don’t have to be searched and take the position that giving up your rights needlessly is a bad idea. I’ll have other cards that talk about why bad security is worse then none at all. Which is an idea I’ve gotten a lot of resistance to. I’d rather know something is unsafe then to think something is safe and be wrong.

In the meantime there are at least two people in the subway today that know they have Fourth Amendment Rights and know how to safely execute their rights when asked to give them up with out probably cause.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Hitachi Hard-Drive Project

I found this piece of music a little while back. You can click the little play button to play it now.
Noriko Version

It was made for a Gizmondo competition by “Noriko” – Composed with sounds of a failing Hitachi hard-disk. I lost his link, but you can probably google for it. It’s really quite beautiful and peaceful. Though once I was diagnosing a laptop and this song came on and freaked me out. You never want want to hear these sounds coming from your computer.

Oh and if you ever do hear these sounds coming from your computer, turn it off (pull the plug) and call me. ;-)

-Francis

Social Graph(ing)

I’ve been missing writing again. I haven’t been getting good sleep lately which kills my creative thinking processes. Didn’t even get good sleep last night, but I did the night before so I’m up to the task.

Social Graphs

Last night over dinner I was given an idea about graphing social graphs. I’m not sharing that with you here yet.
Wait, what?
Thanks to all the new interest in Social Networks, i.e. Facebook, MySpace (which is evil and must be destroyed), LinkedIn and even flickr there’s been some interesting developments.

All those sites in one way or another are considered Social Networks they provide a way to link people to other people either by friendship, admiration (of their photography for example), business relationships or any other idea they deem relevant. These connections are called your “Social Graph”. And while ever site differs on what exactly links two people they all deal with managing and using your graph for both your benefit and theirs.

People are starting to take this idea a little further by displaying their social graphs on their own blogs (akin to blogrolls or just linking to friend’s websites) by using microformats (a way to put info on a website so it is both human and machine readable) such as XFN (The Xhtml Friends Network) which can be considered an improvement because it puts them in direct control over their graph, they can take it down, delete it, share as little or as much as they want and use that information anywhere they want. They can also share things about trust, which can go a long way but is a topic for another discussion. A problem is that most social networking websites do not allow you to take your graph and leave them. If you quit you usually don’t get to take any of your data with you. And they don’t usually delete everything either.

Facebook decided to take your data, the social graph, and allow you to share it with made for facebook applications. They do a reasonable job at protecting your privacy while still allowing apps full access to who your friends are, where your photos are, what groups are you in, and more. Most things are shared not by name but by an id number, and while anyone who runs an app can still keep a copy of every one of your photos on fb if they wanted to I have to tell you your personal photos aren’t that interesting while the applications can be interesting even though most are not.

Google being the benevolent overlords that they are created something called Open Social. Which is a set of API’s that allow websites to talk to each other. Facebook release their api’s so people could make applications for facebook, open social isn’t for google, it’s for everyone to use. So I could make an application and have it work on many different social websites. Google’s real plans are a lot more complicated, they’re doing something their excellent RSS reader which allows you to share RSS feed items with the click of a mouse. A few of my close friends are using this and it’s cool. They’re leveraging the google reader to be the core of google’s own social networking platform whatever it may be. (Though, I’d argue, that Gmail, Gtalk, and google reader are already a fine social networking platform. Buddy lists and address books are not so different from “social graphs”) The more people who use open social the more access they’ll have to information.

I’ve shared a lot so far and you’re probably not still with me. Let me share two more links.
The coining of the term social graphs which is the post that caused most of what I’ve talked about to happen, and a nice easy to follow write up about Social Graph’s Concepts and Issues by ReadWriteWeb.

So what’s the point of me sharing all this? Besides this being an interesting new direction technology is leading us to, it’s allowing me to play with Graph Theories and I like learning new stuff and making cool things with it.

More later!

-Francis