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Saturday, December 31, 2005

High Speed Rail & the SF Transbay Terminal

I wanted to save this link from yesterday's NYT Business section: "Overseas, the Trains and the Market for Them Accelerate".  Here's an excerpt which describes what we in the U.S. (both we the public, as passengers, as well as U.S. manufacturers) are missing out on:
a coming together of two developments in high-speed passenger train travel: technical breakthroughs in the way the bullet-shaped trains run, and the opening of vast new markets in Eastern Europe and Asia that are combining to give a steady boost to the business.

Unless they have traveled abroad, most Americans have had little first-hand experience with high-speed trains, and the problems with the Acela service on Amtrak have left its customers with a slightly bad taste. Hence, as countries including Italy and Spain - and emerging markets like China and Russia - open their pocketbooks for huge high-speed railway development, the United States remains on the sidelines, vulnerable to losing out on new technologies for propulsion and vehicle control.

Anj pointed out this article that was in the Times last week, about the proposed Transbay Terminal in downtown SF: "Trying to Build the Grand Central of the West ". Key to funding the Transbay Terminal will be high-speed rail to LA:

The Transbay Terminal - expected to be complete by 2013, three years sooner than previous projections - will serve nine Northern California counties and various transit agencies both public and private, including trains, subways, buses and ultimately, it is hoped, high-speed rail to Los Angeles. The surrounding 40-acre area, much of it opened up after highways damaged in the 1989 earthquake were demolished, is to become San Francisco's most densely populated neighborhood, based on a planning model known as Vancouverism.

Named after the city in British Columbia, Vancouverism is characterized by tall, but widely separated, slender towers interspersed with low-rise buildings, public spaces, small parks and pedestrian-friendly streetscapes and facades to minimize the impact of a high-density population. The Transbay neighborhood would have an estimated 350 people an acre, whereas the typical residential neighborhood with four-story flats has about 60 people an acre.

My favorite Bay Area transit website is SF CityScape; check out his page on the Transbay.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

a 3rd mellow day in Mission, TX

Another eventful day. Though today we did venture out into public. We went to lunch at Sahadi's, and then some shopping at the (in)famous La Plaza Mall. That place is crazier, busier, more crowded every time I visit. This must have been my 4th or 5th time there. Based on a limited sample (walking from our distant parking spot to the mall entrance), I'd say ~40% of the license plates in the massive parking lot are from Mexico: Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, another one or two that popped just once or twice. Mostly Tamps.

Inside, I'd estimate 80% of the conversations among shoppers were in Spanish. Life on La Frontera.

Lunch was good. Sahadi's is a nice lunch spot + gourment/int'l grocery store + nicely stocked wine shop. Lebanese proprietors. Not what you expect to find in the middle of the 10th Ave strip in McAllen. After lunch, I selected a six of Anchor Porter, and a 6 of an El Salvadorian pilsner that I hadn't seen before.

Before we all went out for lunch, Anj and I went for another walk. This time we walked to the main entrance to the subdivision, in a quest to get a real paper. We were unsuccessful in that respect, but we had some fun tossing and kicking around the tennis ball we'd picked up the previous day--until we lost it down the drain. Also, we found some graffiti! We stopped by on the way back from the mall and I took a few snapshots. Look for them on flickr.

I didn't watch as much soccer today. A bit of Man U-Bolton in the early evening on FSE, but then we watched the end of the Alamo Bowl after dinner. A few years ago I watched Nebraska win another Alamo Bowl in person, over Northwestern. Ina and Suvranu wanted to go, so the 5 of us drove up and back. I think it was Dec 2000, so 5 years ago! Come to think of it, it must have been 2000. The previous year my parents were just moving into this house, and in 2001 we were in India for our wedding.

Back to soccer--I just turned on FSE: UNAM v. Corinthians right now (Mexican clubs). Just flipped to FSC and found something more appealing: Man City v. Chelsea.

Little reading today. I did get into some fiction finally. My goal was to knock off a quick novel this week. It took me a while to settle on something. I read a few pages of Tolkien's "The Fellowship of the Ring" but was not feeling it. But then found something manageable: Tolstoy's "The Death of Ivan Ilych." Only 60 pages, and fits into my plan to get through some Russian literature. Though I didn't get through Gogol's "Dead Souls" earlier this year. Krops and I were talking about making "Anna Karenina" a selection for our (currently dormant) book club. Ina's copy of "War and Peace" that she bought in Ann Arbor is in our room here, but that will have to wait for some future time when I've got a few weeks w/o anything else to do. After hearing Vikram Seth talk about it, I have to get to Pushkin's "Eugene Onegin." (Especially since Anj and I started working through Seth's "Golden Gate" after we brought back her copy from Saginaw.)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

NYT: Letter from Estonia

Ina wanted me to save the link to this NYT article from last week, headlined
"A Land of Northern Lights, Cybercafes and the Flat Tax". An excerpt:
Fired with a free-market fervor and hurtling into the high-tech future, Estonia feels more like a Baltic outpost of Silicon Valley than of Europe. Nineteen months after it achieved its cherished goal of joining the European Union, one might even characterize Estonia as the un-Europe.

"I must say Steve Forbes was a genius," Prime Minister Andrus Ansip declared during an interview in his hilltop office. "I'm sure he still is," he added hastily.

The subject was the flat tax, which Mr. Forbes never succeeded in selling in the United States. Here in the polar reaches of Europe it is an article of faith. Estonia became the first country to adopt it in 1994, as part of a broader strategy to transform itself from an obscure Soviet republic into a plugged-in member of the global information economy.

By all accounts, the plan is working. Estonia's economic growth was nearly 11 percent in the last quarter - the second fastest in Europe, after Latvia, and an increase more reminiscent of China or India than Germany or France.

People call this place E-stonia, and the cyber-intoxication is palpable in Tallinn's cafes and bars, which are universally equipped with wireless connections, and in local success stories like Skype, designed by Estonian developers and now offering free calls over the Internet to millions.

The flip side of Estonia's market ethos is a thinner social safety net than those in Europe's welfare states. Opponents of the flat tax here - and there are some - say it has widened the divide between rich and poor, making Estonia less like its Nordic neighbors and more like the United States.

This reminded me that I saw a short article in the Economist at some point over the past couple months, which discussed flat tax systems in Eastern Europe. I couldn't find the link to that one, but did turn up this one, which was published last April:

Simplifying tax systems | The case for flat taxes |

A 2nd chill day in Mission

Another uneventful relaxing day. I read some more of Grinstead and Snell at the kitchen table, Anj read Nature Biotechnology outside in the sun. It was HOT--a high of 89F. Anj and I went for a 45-minute walk around the subdivision, and we were beat after we got back.

I watched a bit more soccer on Fox Sports Espanol--but just bit of a rebroadcast of
Liverpool-Newcastle. I did see Gerrard's goal--the kid is for real, apparently.

Also watched most of Arsenal-Charlton for a 2nd time late last night. Henry is still the man, but seems to be having some problems finishing. Who is the young cat Reyes they have him paired with up front? Freddie Ljungberg was creating stuff on the wing, but muffed on a 1-on-1 with the keeper in the first half.

Kolkata photos on flickr

During our last visit to my parents' place, I scanned in a handful of slides from my father's collection. They were all photos of my extended family, taken during two different visits to West Bengal in the 1970s. I found the jpegs still on my parents' computer today, and uploaded them to flickr. Go here to see them.

In tag-surfing from there, via the kolkata tag, came to a fantastic set of Kolkata photos. Take a look.

I'm hoping to scan a few more old slides later this week. Look for them in my photostream.

Monday, December 26, 2005

this morning: probability and fox sports en espanol

Yesterday was Xmas dinner and gifts, and sports on TV (Pistons blowing out the Spurs, in our intra-familiar rivalry--Anj and I being Pistons fans, my parents being Spurs fans; and later the Vikings losing to the Ravens).

This morning: I finally started reading Grinstead and Snell's probability text. It's a very basic and accessible undergrad-level intro to the subject. It reads quick--got through two chapter this morning--and there are copious historical remarks at the end of the each section. Plus it's free! So I highly recommend printing it out, chapter-by chapter say, if you want to learn probability theory, but have never studied the subject before.

Right now we're watching an EPL game on Fox Sports Espanol: Arsenal vs. Charlton. Another thing I wanted to get started on was getting back to studying Spanish. This seems like a good way to do it.

Somehow, even though the Tivo records Champions League games for me whenever they come on ESPN/2, I don't often find the time to sit down and watch a soccer game (even in English, let alone in Spanish.)

Looking forward to the World Cup next summer. Though I'm intensely disappointed that we won't be able to follow through on my idea of travelling to and through Brazil during that month. A fortiori, it's going to be difficult for me to watch many games, since I'll be in the middle of the 2nd MFE term. Hopefully the class schedule will leave some openings in the afternoons, and I can do some reading in the bars and restaurants from the mental list I've been compiling, of locations to watch games(Balompie Cafe, Mad Dog in the Fog, ...).

Update: Arsenal won that game 1-0. Reyes scored off of a Thierry Henry rebound. FSE followed up that game with another EPL match, Liverpool v. Newcastle.

Update 2: 3rd EPL game in a row! FSE just started showing Aston Villa v. Everton. Liverpool won the previous game 2-0.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

urban growth and education: Vancouver vs. American cities

The Times had an article earlier this year about how certain American cities, although vibrant culturally and economically--I think it mentioned Portland and SF in particular--are losing young families and school-age children. Today's Time had something of a followup, which contrasts that with what's happening in Vancouver: "Spurring Urban Growth in Vancouver, One Family at a Time":

Over the last 10 years, cities across North America have attracted thousands of new residents to revitalized urban areas. Vancouver is no exception. About 40,000 people have moved into the downtown peninsula in the last 15 years; the downtown population is expected to reach 110,000 by 2015.

But there is a difference between the urban growth taking place in Vancouver and the development occurring in many American cities. In the United States, many of the new urban residents are young professionals or older, wealthier people whose children are grown. In fact, enrollment in Portland, Ore., and Seattle public schools has dropped by thousands of students because of declining numbers of urban families with children.

In Vancouver, the number of children living downtown has doubled since 1990; there are now 5,000 children living in the central core. Last year, the city opened the first new elementary school in an inner-city neighborhood in more than 30 years.
How is that happening in Vancouver but not American cities? In SF, the school district is talking about closing a number of schools.

It seems that much of our generation wants to live in the cities. It'll be interesting to see how many of us stick it out as the next generation starts growing up. The central issue is education. For persons of certain SES, it seems that big city public schools are a non-starter. (Note this line from the Slate article I blogged earlier today, discussing the decisions of today's typical yuppie couple: "When children arrive, the couple has to choose between living in an expensive town with good public schools (which means long, painful commutes), or the prospect of private-school tuition at $25,000 per kid per year.")

My impression is that Chicago Mayor Daley have explicitly identified improving the public schools as a necessary condition to attracting and retaining a population of middle-class families.

It will be interesting to see what our friends--and we ourselves--will do by the time its time for the wee ones to to kindergarten.

John Yoo profiles in the NYT

We landed in McAllen a few hours ago, after a full day of travel: walk to bart, bart to oak, oak to dtw, 2 hours there, and then finally dtw-mfe.

Just got Firefox 1.5 and Performancing installed. So look for plenty of posts over the next week that we're here.

Thanks to John's list, this Salon landed in my inbox":"Bush's impeachable offense."

Decided to forward it to a few guys, and since one of them is a lawyer, also forwarded a couple pieces about John Yoo that ran in the NYT over the past couple weeks.

Anj and I made our first visit to the The Canvas Gallery Friday afternoon--a stop on our way to the new de Young. While we were sitting there, I read this profile of Yoo: "A Junior Aide Had a Big Role in Terror Policy."

In searching for that link, I came across a short piece by Jeffrey Rosen titled "The Yoo Presidency". It's one of the 80-odd such short essays highlighting the Mag's choices for "The Year in Ideas."

A few paragraphs from that profile:

Mr. Yoo is often identified as the most aggressive among a group of conservative legal scholars who have challenged the importance of international law in the American legal system. But his signature contributions to the policies of the Bush administration have had more to do with his forceful assertion of wide presidential powers in wartime.

While Mr. Yoo has become almost famous for some of his writings - the refutation of both his academic and government work has become almost a cottage industry among more liberal legal scholars and human rights lawyers - much less is known about how he came to wield the remarkable influence he had after Sept. 11 on issues related to terrorism.

That Washington tale began about a decade before Mr. Yoo joined the administration in July 2001, when he finished at Yale Law School and won a clerkship with Judge Laurence H. Silberman of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a keen spotter of young legal talent and a patriarch of the network of conservative lawyers who have occupied key positions throughout the Bush administration.

By then, Mr. Yoo already thought of himself as solidly conservative. He had grown up with anticommunist parents who left their native South Korea for Philadelphia shortly after Mr. Yoo was born in 1967, and had honed his political views while an undergraduate at Harvard.

From the chambers of Judge Silberman, Mr. Yoo moved on to a clerkship with Justice Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court, stopping briefly at Berkeley. Justice Thomas helped place him with Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, as general counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Along the way, Mr. Yoo passed up a chance to work in the Washington office of the law firm Jones Day, where he caught the eye of a senior partner, Timothy E. Flanigan. After five years that Mr. Yoo spent at Berkeley, writing on legal aspects of foreign affairs, war powers and presidential authority, the two men met up again when Mr. Yoo joined the Bush campaign's legal team, where Mr. Flanigan was a key lieutenant.

Mr. Flanigan became the deputy White House counsel under Alberto R. Gonzales. Mr. Yoo ended up as a deputy in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, or the O.L.C., a small unit of lawyers that advises the executive branch on constitutional questions and on the legality of complex or disputed policy issues.

After the attacks of Sept. 11, Mr. Yoo - the only deputy with much expertise on foreign policy and war powers - began dealing with the White House and other agencies more directly than he might have otherwise.

Friday, December 23, 2005

new 19th @ mission graf

new 19th @ mission - 2
Originally uploaded by shooGu.
3 posts in one day!

i'd been thinking i should blog from flickr more often. here's a shot of the wall at the NW corner of 19th and Mission, which I took a litle over a month ago. it was a Wednesday afternoon, Nov 16--don't recall exactly why I made a trip back to the Mission, but I did, and I happened to have my camera on me.

As I noted in the description, you can see previous incarnations of this wall on the Graffiti Archaeology site. Which is the site that inspired to me to start taking graf photos in the first place.

Haven't been carrying the camera around over the past few weeks. Got to get back to it. Maybe tomorrow, as Anj and I are going to spend a day in the city, including a trip to see the new deYoung.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Passion of the Spaghetti Monster

Anj wanted to save this to add to her lab's wall shrine to the FSM: Wired News: Passion of the Spaghetti Monster. Here are the opening paragraphs:

Bobby Henderson is holed up in the boonies -- Corvallis, Oregon -- hard at work on his next entry into the fray over just what students should learn about the origin of species.

When the Kansas Board of Education proposed balancing evolution instruction by teaching intelligent design, said to be a scientific theory that supports an "intelligent creator" of all life, the decision outraged many, including 38 Nobel laureates (.pdf).

Henderson responded with a satirical letter to the Kansas board demanding equal time for a different, "equally scientific" theory of intelligent design, in which a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the world.

The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or Pastafarianism, turned into a phenomenon, appealing to scientists, academics and many others, who flock to Henderson's website to pick up FSM mugs and T-shirts, play games and learn about other school boards hostile to evolutionary thought. The site now draws as many as 2 million hits a day.

That link came to me via digg.

And Performancing is making it easy to blog it.


Did a quick browse through my Rojo account just now, and came across a TechCrunch entry titled
Flock Says "Enough", which in turn led me to Performancing for Firefox (which in turn led me to finally upgrade to Firefox 1.5.

All I can say is wow. I haven't been too good about blogging up in here this past year, and I can't say that to improve on that is one of my goals for the new year. OTC, one of my goals is to spend less time on the web! But I can see how this could lead to more regular blogging--more production of content, instead of the passive consumption I fall into too often.

Look for some posts here next week, since we'll be in Mission. Been meaning to at least blog regularly about whatever it is that Anj and I are up to here in the Bay, or elsewhere, so maybe I'll get around to posting little bits about what we've been doing the past few months. What comes to mind: living in Nob Hill, Vikram Seth reading in Berkeley, John Arnold Ayro at Social Club, trip to Michigan for Thanksgiving, the 2nd Wonder-full party.

Not to mention I've got to write our annual letter. Every year (well, for the past 2 or 3 years that we've been writing them) I say I'm going to write a draft as the year goes by. But instead I put it off for as long as possible. Look for it in your inbox sometime next week.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Stones Throw Holiday Mix by PB Wolf

For your holiday season listening pleasures, go here:

Streaming mp3 of a holiday mix by Peanut Butter Wolf. From what little of the tracklist I do recognize, it looks to be good:

1. Hello World – Rudy Ray Moore
2. Peace On Earth – Hopeton and Primo
3. Where Day At Yo – K. Nock feat 24K
4. Rappin Christmas – The Cold Crew
5. Jingle Bells – Dudley Perkins and Georgia Anne Muldrow
6. Seven Days of Kwanzaa – Georgia Anne Muldrow
7. In The Hot Sun Of A Christmas Day – Caetano Veloso
8. My Lovely Christmas – Baron Zen
9. Irie Christmas – Freddie McGregor
10. Christmas Will Really Be Christmas – Lou Rawls
11. Go Power at Christmas Time – James Brown
12. Seasons Greetings – Sound On Sound Productions
13. My Christmas Bells – Hard Call Christmas
14. Broke At Christmas – Jacob Miller & Ray I
15. Broke Christmas In Brooklyn – Baron Zen
16. Night Before Christmas – Rudy Ray Moore
17. Close Your Mouth (It's Christmas) – Free Design
18. Glory, Glory – Al Green
19. What You Want For Christmas – 69 Boys
20. Little Saint Nick – The Beach Boyz
21. Christmas – Beat Happening
22. Got The Beat For Christmas (Breakdance) – Monyaka
23. Sound The Trumpet – Bob Marley & The Wailers
24. Christmas in the City – Marvin Gaye
25. Silent Night – Peanut Butter Wolf
26. Tidings – Phil Spector, Peanut Butter Wolf, and Esquivel

The link came to me by the 313 list. It's for mix pointers like this (including regular reminders about's latest show) that I keep lurking on there.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Kruman on Drucker and the Age of Discontinuity & Anxiety

Krugman column from Monday about Drucker, GM/Delphi, and the breakdown of the American postwar social order:

Age of Anxiety

Published: November 28, 2005

The opening grafs:

"Many eulogies were published following the recent death of Peter Drucker, the great management theorist. I was surprised, however, that few of these eulogies mentioned his book "The Age of Discontinuity," a prophetic work that speaks directly to today's business headlines and economic anxieties.

Mr. Drucker wrote "The Age of Discontinuity" in the late 1960's, a time when most people assumed that the big corporations of the day, companies like General Motors and U.S. Steel, would dominate the economy for the foreseeable future. He argued that this assumption was
all wrong."

and later:

"Many of the corporate giants of the 1960's, companies whose pre-eminence seemed permanent, have fallen on hard times, their places in the business hierarchy taken by new players. General Motors is only the most famous example.

So what? Meet the new boss, same as the old boss: why does it matter if the list of leading corporations turns over every couple of decades, as long as the total number of jobs continues to grow?

The answer is the reason Mr. Drucker's old book is so relevant to today's headlines: corporations can't provide their workers with economic security if the companies' own future is highly insecure.

American workers at big companies used to think they had made a deal. They would be loyal to their employers, and the companies in turn would be loyal to them, guaranteeing job security, health care and a dignified retirement.

Such deals were, in a real sense, the basis of America's postwar social order. We like to think of ourselves as rugged individualists, not like those coddled Europeans with their oversized welfare states. But as Jacob Hacker of Yale points out in his book "The Divided Welfare State," if you add in corporate spending on health care and pensions - spending that is both regulated by the government and subsidized by tax breaks - we actually have a welfare state that's
about as large relative to our economy as those of other advanced countries.

The resulting system is imperfect: those who don't work for companies with good benefits are, in effect, second-class citizens.

And in closing:

"Regular readers of this column know what I think we should do: instead of trying to provide economic security through the back door, via tax breaks designed to encourage corporations to provide health care and pensions, we should provide it through the front door,
starting with national health insurance. You may disagree. But one thing is clear: Mr. Drucker's age of discontinuity is also an age of anxiety, in which workers can no longer count on loyalty from their employers."

I haven't read anything by Drucker. Sounds like "The Age of Discontinuity" would be a good one to choose.

Some places will suffer from these discontinuities more than others. It was interesting being back in Michigan last weekend, seeing the pervasiveness of that fading industry. We pass a GM "Malleable Iron" plant on the way from the highway into Anj's parents' place, one of their friends works for Delphi, ...

Here is one of those many eulogies to Drucker:

Peter Drucker
The one management thinker every educated person should read
(From The Economist print edition) Nov 17th 2005

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Getting Things Done

I've had some serious issues with getting things done. OTOH, I'm into writing things down. E.g., I've been using something like The Hipster PDA for over 10 years (in the form of a memo fact, just bought a new one this morning--which highlights the weakness of my system: I have to start in a new one when the one I've been using gets filled up.)

But from hanging around and other sort of geek/tech sites, I've become aware of a GTD cult. Some of it appears to be centered around the "the groundbreaking work-life management sytem and book by David Allen that transforms personal overwhelm and overload into an integrated system of stress-free productivity." That's from his website--and of course there is a book: "Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity".

But there's an entire cottage industry of geek/techie people infatuated with productivity tools.

One that I just started using an hour ago is the GTDTiddlyWiki. A TiddlyWiki template designed to help you GTD. I'm going to try to actually stick to this one and use it.

I saved that link to my repository, and discovered I'd tagged one other page I'd saved with "gettingthingsdone": a WiredNews article titled "A Guide to Getting Things Done", which begins:

If you thought your time-management skills were up to scratch, think again. David Allen's personal-productivity guidebook Getting Things Done has become a call to arms for webheads who want to accomplish more tasks in less time.

But who is the author followers call "the guru," and what do you need to join his merry band? Here are a few pointers to get you started.

What is Getting Things Done and what's the big idea?

Depending on your politics, Getting Things Done is either a how-to for drones to perform harder and faster, or the book that will help you wipe out anxiety through streamlining your approach to work. According to the back cover, "our productivity is directly proportional to our ability to relax; only when our minds are clear and our thoughts are organized can we achieve results and unleash our creative potential."

My politics tend to lead me towards the prior--all these productivity tools and systems are just a way for the system to squeeze more productivity out of us. Sort of a quasi-Marxian, homo economicus view of society, I would guess (not really knowing anything about those topics).

More on this later. In particular, I'll report if I actually succeed in GTD using a GTDTiddlyWiki.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Making the connection on flickr

Last weekend I finally d/l'ed our photos from our trip to MN, and added keyword in iPhoto. I tried to upload them to flickr, but the wireless connection at the apartment we're staying at is unreliable. Only one photo made it up so far.

Then a funny thing happened. I'd added "bloomingtoncentralstation" as a tag to that photo, and just for fun looked to see if anyone else had photos with that tag, by going here.

And indeed there were 5 other photos, all taken by the same person, agc. And one of those photos was from the roof across to the cranes. I took a similar shot when Mark took us up to the roof, so I added a comment to that effect. Agc replied with a comment on one of our Istanbul photos.

Flickr is crazy.

Now I've got to figure out how to start geotagging my photos...

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The 100 Greatest Theorems

I came across this list via digg, and soon after JuniorCooper also e-mailed the link to me.

It would be interesting to go through the and count:

(1) how many I could state (w/o looking it up)

(2) how many of those I could sit down & prove

(3) how many I could understand the proofs of

One cool & interesting thing about this: I touched on 3 of the top 5 in that lecture on infinity I gave back in June: numbers 1, 3 & 4.

So not only can I sit down and write out the proofs of those--presumably, so can anybody who came to the lecture.

Right guys?

Friday, November 04, 2005

encounter with a Gophers legend

I was walking through downtown SF yesterday evening--down California Street, from where we're staying these days, near the top of Nob Hill, down to Market Street. I would've caught a cable car if one had come by going down, but none did--which turned out to be lucky.

California St comes down from Nob Hill, cuts across Chinatown for a couple blocks, and then goes through the Financial District. Somewhere in between Chinatown and the Financial District, I spotted a guy outside a hotel flagging down a cab. What caught my eye was that he was wearing a Gophers letter jacket.

Then I looked a little closer, and realized that it looked like none other than...Gophers great Miles Tarver.

So I went up to him and asked, and indeed it was Miles. He was surprised--seemed like he thought at first that we had met somewhere before. I told him I was from MN, mentioned the '97 season. He seemed like he actually wanted to talk with me. If his friend hadn't been anxious to get in a cab, I think we might have hung out.

He said he's working as a teacher in SF. I put it together later, that he was from the Bay Area originally--Oakland or Alamdeda, I think.

I should have thought to mention to him how a friend's game is modeled on his. Indeed, I might not have recognized him had I not seen his photo on Mark's desk a couple week's ago.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Jury duty! (+,, and me teaching calc on the web)

Just found out yesterday evening that I have to report for jury duty this afternoon. So I've got to get to the Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant by 1:30pm.

That's about two miles from here, but knowing Muni, I'm going to give myself an hour. (Too bad the 19 isn't on NextMuni--I could have employed my new connecting algorithms for the first time!)

That gives me an hour to get some work done. I'm preparing a calc lecture for tomorrow. If you want to see me in action, go here. Or tune in tomorrow, 12:35-1:50pm (PDT). Assuming, that is, that I'm not stuck in jury duty.

Two cool information-sharing sites that are focused on social networks, both of which I came across in the past week: and The latter I discovered just this morning, via this Flickr blog post. Turns out Upcoming is the newest addition to the Yahoo family!

If you get on either of those, connect to me: this is my digg page, and this is my Upcoming page.

Update: Shortly after finishing this post, I discovered how to incorporate the "badge" into the template for this page. So you should see my list of upcoming events in a table on the RHS of this page.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Lifehack: Emergency Preparedness

At some point over the last few weeks I came across, and subscribed to the RSS feed. (Once again, if you haven't done so, you need to start using some sort of RSS aggregator, esp if you spend any time at all reading blogs. I have been using, and highly recommend,

Noticed this Lifehack entry just now. I'd seen the linked-to NYT article last week, but didn't get a chance to read it.

Like many others, emergency-preparedness has been on my mind lately. We bought a big jug of bottled water a couple weeks ago. I also read another cool tip and started implementing it: keep some bottles of water in the freezer. In addition to having some more water around, you can move those frozen bottles to your fridge if the electricity is out, which will keep stuff cooler longer.

The other thing I want to get is a handcrank radio/flashlight. I bookmarked this site, which sells a variety of models. I've got my eye on the Eton FR300, since it also includes an adaptor for
handcranking a cell phone.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Lawn Bowling in Golden Gate Park

I biked to work again Thursday morning, and once again cut through the Children's Playground. But then noticed the Lawn Bowling facility just behind it. Which was an odd coincidence, b/c Arjun had e-mailed just the previous day that he wanted to check this out when we meet in the park on Sunday. So I took this pic for him.

golden gate lawn bowling
Originally uploaded by shooGu.

It's peaceful around there in the morning.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Measure spaces and measurable sets

Ina e-mailed that she was trying to understand what it means for a set to be measurable. Here was my quick writeup:

As the Wikipedia entry for Measure Theory says, "a measure is a function that assigns a number, e.g., a 'size', 'volume', or 'probability', to subsets of a given set."

Using the notation of that Wikipedia entry, which is pretty standard, the "given set" is X, the subsets are the members of a σ-algebra Σ over X, and the measure is a function μ: Σ -> [0, ∞]. So: a measure is a function μ on a σ-algebra Σ over a set X. A measure space consists of those 3 things: it's a triple (X, σ, μ).

So μ maps every Y \in Σ to a real number in [0, ∞], and μ(Y) is the "size" of Y under that measure. Then the measurable sets are just the sets in the σ-algebra Σ: all the sets that "measures."

Maybe I should contribute some of this to the Wikipedia entry...

Probability links: measure theory and sigma-algebras

Ina is taking a statistics course this fall, for which the prof recommended real analysis as a prerequisite. Turns out he's doing probability in quite a bit of detail. It must be b/c it's through the Econ dept.

So Ina asked me last night about the definition of a sigma-algebra. We were at Vesuvio at the time, so I told her I'd check my analysis texts at home. Royden has the material, but I figured it would be easier to send her some links. I e-mailed them to her, but figured I'd also post them here:

GooglePrint has a lot of material. Here is one titled Real Analysis and Probability that could be a good reference. But it seems like its aimed at readers already familiar with real analysis and probability. Probably a better option would be this: A First Look at Rigorous Probability Theory by J.S. Rosenthal.

It just occurred to me that I have Durrett's Probabilty: Theory and Examples at home as well. Another Cornell text that Amazon turned up, and which looks like it could be appropriate: A Probability Path by Sidney Resnick.

Amazon also led me to Billingsley's Probability and Measure, which I believe is a classic text, but again might be aimed for a more mathematically mature audience. It also led me to a couple more texts on stochastic processes (by Resnick and Durrett, actually) that I might need to take a look at sooner or later.

But to get started, the wikipedia entries for measure theory and sigma-algebra look pretty good.

Biked to work--finally!

Finally. I pulled the Tourmalet down off the wall and biked to work this morning. Doing my part to counteract the car culture.

It took me 1 3/4 years to finally work up the energy and daring to do it--but it turned out to be a nice, fairly leisurely ride. It helped that I was familiar with the route, from biking to soccer games in GG Park last fall: across 19th St to Valencia, up the bike lane, west on 15th St across Market, up Sanchez and Steiner into the lower Haight, west on Page into the upper Haight and into Golden Gate park. Cut through the playground, past the Carousel, came out where MLK meets Lincoln, near Kezar Stadium. From there, just two blocks up to Irving. Two sets of elevators--one up to Parnassus, the next up to our 11th floor perch. 30 mins door to door--about the same as if I take the shuttle.

Once I figure out how, I'll trace out the route on GoogleMaps. For now, I'll give you the driving directions, but it's not the same route at all--driving one goes over the 17th Street pass. On bike, I cut up north of Buena Vista, avoiding the hills.

The ride was so mellow. Sometimes i dream about SF as nearly car-free village, with the main arteries given over to buses and light rail, and the side streets for bikes.

Monday, September 26, 2005

O'Reilly's Web2MemeMap

Originally uploaded by Tim O'Reilly.
Came across this via this TechCrunch post. Just added the TechCrunch RSS feed to my Rojo account a couple weeks ago.

Monday, September 12, 2005

AJAX for Anj

This link is for Anj.

It was #10 on this list of "Top 10 AJAX Applications" (thanks to Jason for passing that on).

I haven't checked out any of the others on that list. But I did start using another AJAX app, called NumSum. I actually started using it to do some calculations here at work. For simple spreadsheets, this is much prefereable to opening up Excel--and then keeping track of the resulting .xls files.

Web 2.0, people.

Friday, September 09, 2005

photos from 18th & Mission

Back in June I did a post titled "A walk to work", which was one of my most popular posts. (In that two people told me they read it.) I still haven't followed through on the idea of documenting the whole route photographically. But on Tuesday morning I did snap a handful of photos at the beginning of the route--the corner of 18th & Mission. Epicenter of the future gentrification of Mission Ave:

18th & Mission

Our Mendo photos are also up. They're in a Mendocino 2005 group pool our 'keeper Todd set up. So far only our photos and the Marshburns' are in there.

But I'll post a writeup about Mendo soon, hopefully this weekend.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

literary events

One thing that's been bothering me is that I go to less literary events here in SF than I did in Ann Arbor. Obviously there are obviously tons of readings happening every week, here in the city and also over in Berkeley, but I've only hit a handful the whole time we've been here. A large part of the reason is geography. It takes some time and effort to get to Opera Plaza (Clean Well-Lighted Place), or to the Haight (Booksmith), or over to Berkeley (Cody's), where the majority of readings happen. Unlike in Ann Arbor, where every reading was at Borders or Shaman Drum, both of them within two blocks of where we lived.

E.g., Dave Eggers did an event at Clean Well-Lighted Place (nice domain grab!) a couple weeks ago, but didn't make it up there for it. that is where Anj and I saw Amitav Ghosh in May, and where I saw Walter Mosley last summer.0

Anyways, the good thing is that the Commonwealth Club does a good number of literary events. Next week they've got Susanna Clarke on Monday and TC Boyle on Wednesday. I've never read anything by either--although I did receive a Boyle book as a gift once--but I think I'll go check them out. Might as well, since I paid for a Commonwealth Club membership.

Also, check out this science writing panel they've got coming up next month. Looking forward to that one.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Graffiti: Urban scrawl of artistic freedom?

That's the title of this panel discussion at the Commonwealth Club that I'm heading downtown to catch in a few minutes here. Should be interesting, esp since one of the panelists is Apex, a local writer whose work I've seen, both on Flickr and in person. Here's a photo of one his works that I took:

20th @ Bryant - 14 July '05

That reads "dream" BTW--a dedication to Mike Dream, as I learned on Flickr from otherthings (click on the photo above). Which is another reason this event should be interesting: I may meet otherthings, the creator of Graffiti Archaeology and a prolific contributor to Flickr. See, for example, his collection of Apex-tagged photos on Flickr.

Monday, August 15, 2005

VOIP: gizmo, skype, messenger

Just d/l'ed and installed Gizmo & Skype. Now I just need someone to call. Anybody out there?

Also, I've just discovered the fun of IM over the last couple weeks. It was only on Friday that I discovered that it's possible to send and receive text messages to and from cell phones within Yahoo Messenger--only on Windows though, AFAI can tell :(

But it appears that Messenger also does voice! And if I can get our dormant iSight working with Messenger...

Friday, August 12, 2005

Audioblogs - breath of life

I've been keeping up with the essential Soul Sides, but I've been sleeping on breath of life in the few weeks since O-dub referred everyone over to them (here). I finally got around to listening to this week's tracks while reading some of the accompanying essays just now (while trying to read about "The challenges of modeling mammalian biocomplexity" for our literature meeting).

I agree with Brady, the UI is a little wack. But it cool to have a player built into the site, and the words are good. Well, at least the ones I just read about "The Girl from Ipanema" Just listened to Archie Shepp's free jazz version...which segued into Goodie Mob's "Soul Food".

OK, back to reading about modeling mammalian biocomplexity.

Monday, August 08, 2005

GoogleMaps & Ajax

I wrote up this post about 10 days ago, but never got around to posting it. So really the post-date should be around July 28--relativize all my time references below to that date:

Another hiatus, this time 2 weeks. Actually I wrote up a post in the middle of last week, but lost it. It was my fault. I was going to use Blogger's handy e-mail-to-post feature, but I lost my draft in my mail program due to a misclick. That will teach me to compose posts offline in a text editor, as I'm doing now, instead of online.

I started out last week's lost post by simply wanting to record the Vietnamese sandwich spot that Josh took me to for lunch: Pho Ha Tien. But that took me into a long tangent about what neighborhood that is. Using the SF Realtors' Map, I found that it was the cusp of 4 (micro-)'hoods: Westwood Park, Mount Davidson Manor, Ingleside Terrace, and Ingleside.

But it also took me into a longer discussion about maps online. And today I found myself
proselytizing to some friends via e-mail for GoogleMaps. So I'll tell you what I told them:

Check out GoogleMaps if you haven't started using it already. It really feels like a new level of information technology for the web compared to the stuff that's been out there. Try it the next time you need directions.

Or go to and click on some of the example searches on the right, and start playing around with the maps. The maps are amazing: great rendering, nearly instantaneous zooming in and out, draggable for panning around, satellite overlays, businesses pinpointed (and conveniently tied to Google search results). Ok, just take their tour.

Coincidentally, just yesterday I read a bit about the technology behind this kind of stuff. It's been termed Ajax, for "Asynchronous JavaScript + XML." Even after skimming through an introductory essay by the folks who coined the term, I don't really get it. But from GoogleMaps, it does look like it's leading to a new kind of web apps--one which really are dynamic and interactive, as Google is advertising their maps.

For further reading on Ajax, go to Indeed, even before I learned what Ajax stands for, I'd been noticing that Ajax-related links kept popping up on the popular list.

Postscript: I could go on and on about all the other cool tools Google has got going. Naturally, there's GoogleEarth, which has gotten some attention in the MSM (mainstream media). I downloaded it and played around with it for a few minutes. It is also amazing, but at this point it seems to be more of a toy than something I'll use regularly. But people are using it; check GoogleEarthHacks.

Beyond that, there's Personalized Google, which I think they have just added more features to; and GoogleSMS, which I haven't yet had the occasion to use.

Related to the last is one additional topic: "continous computing". It's the concept posited in a recent article by a writer for MIT Technology Review, Wade Roush, as well as the focus of this blog of his.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Rosen's "Praeludium" / TiddlyWikis

If you want to read what I'll be presenting on in this Friday's Literature meeting at work, you can view the document here. It's the Prelude to Robert Rosen's book Life Itself. Pretty odd stuff (esp when you remind yourself that this is a book about biology--a book that claims to address Schrodinger's question, "What is life?" I'm still not sure whether Rosen is profound or something of a very learned crank. But he does have one very good point--biologists are largely silent on that fundamental question.)

I'm really hyped about using TiddlyWikis--I'm going to try to do my Lit Mtg presentation using one, instead of PowerPoint or even KeyNote. We started one at work as a way to collaboratively write a draft manuscript about the model we're working on (actually, we're using a ZiddlyWiki for that, so we can store it on a server). And I created another TW Monday night to serve as a BookLog. Check it out.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Evening @ the Commonwealth Club & in the Mission

Yesterday--even though it was a Monday--was a good day, reminded me how good life in this city can be. In fact, the whole weekend was like that, but more on that later, hopefully.

But yesterday--the weather was glorious, clear, sunny, and warm. I went down and across Parnassus to the library in the afternoon to find a book ("What is this think called Science?" by A.F. Chalmers--got to read up on scientfic induction) and read a bit in preparation for the literature talk I have to give Friday. Felt lucky to sit there with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands to the north, Golden Gate Park and the ocean to the west.

Almost on the spur of the moment decided to head downtown after work to hit an event at the Commonwealth Club. Aaron Peskin, President of the SF Board of Supervisors, in conversation with the COO of the Club. It worked out perfectly--I used to catch an inbound N-Judah, as if it was sitting there waiting for me when I took the elevator down to Irving St. Twenty minutes to the Montgomery St station, which put me (thanks to choosing the right exit--a key in navigating undeground public transit) right at the doorstep of the Club's building.

Some complimentary wine during the reception, a bit of browsing their nice library, one the 2nd floor above 2nd & Market--even before the event itself, I was thinking again that I really ought to spring for a membership. Where else can you hear speakers ranging from
Bill Frist to Steven Levitt to the RZA?? Each of those guys will be speaking over the next month!

Listening to Peskin speak about the issues facing the city was fascinating and stimulating. I took copious notes, which I really should go through and write up.

Afterwards, back down to Market and down into the Montgomery St station, but this time down to the BART level. Five minutes to wait for a train heading my way, maybe 10 minutes to 24th St. The plan was to meet Anj, Emily, and Greg at the Attic, just across the street from the BART station. I didn't get through to anyone's cell, so I took a walk around the block--down the Osage alleyway to 25th, across to Mission and back up to 24th--so that I could take a few more graf shots. Here are two; Check the rest in this Flickr set.

viva el vandalizmo - Osage Alley, 11 July '05

Osage Alley - big wall - 11 July '05

After a quick Bud @ the Attic ($2 on Mondays), we walked around the corner and had excellent pupusas for dinner at La Santaneca. Yet another little spot to hit in the 'hood for cheap eats.

Yes, all in all, a good day and evening in the city.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Graffiti archaeology

Capp @ 17th St
Originally uploaded by suman_ganguli.

A whole month passed w/o an entry! I've mentally been composing a summary of the past month, but that will have to wait, since I'm at work (and trying to focus on actually getting some done).

I did do a couple posts over at dillytaunt, our new (but so far fairly quiet) group blog. (Don't ask me about the name--ask fatmango).

I'm always pleasantly surprised (amazed actually) that some folks are still dropping in here and reading. Both Arjun and Simeone told me they liked my 'walk to work' essay. I would still like to follow through on that idea of making it a photoessay. A positive development is that (as of Friday) I've started lugging the camera around--check my Flickr photostream for my latest uploads. Quite a few of those are yet more Ukraine photos that I uploaded over the weekend (we've got almost all of them up, so we should finally be mailing out the link soon. I have also been meaning to write up something about the trip to go out with the photos, but that hasn't happened yet either.)

More specific to the idea of taking some photos of the walk to work, however, is that I started taking some shots of graffiti in our neighborhood. It's another thing I'd been thinking about doing for a while, but I was motivated to finally start after Anj pointed out this NYTimes article about the Graffiti archaeology site, which in turn led me to the Flickr Graffiti Archaeology pool.

The SF photos in the Flickr pool inspired me to get started. Check my own baby SF Graffiti set. I added that handful of shots to the Graffiti Archaeology pool, which elicited a comment--a mini-dialogue, in fact--regarding the piece pictured above. It seems the hype about Flickr being a social forum is in fact true.

A footnote: Flickr got mentioned in a couple NYT articles about last week's London bombings. This Arts essay in particular is primarily about how the events got covered on Flickr. I happened to take a look at Flickr's Hot Tags list on Friday, and of course "londonbombings" was up there. But as that Times piece points out, most of the photos weren't of the events itself, but one or more steps removed from them.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

A walk to work

The weather has been beautiful here in SF ever since we got back to town last Wednesday (actually, I hear it was beautiful ever since we left!). This morning it was such a pleasure to be walking outside, that instead of turning from 18th St onto Mission, in order to catch the shuttle at 16th & Mission, I made an impulsive decision to walk all the way to work. It's only the 2nd time I've done that in a year and a half, the other time being sometime last summer or fall. I did walk home a handful of times last year, but I've yet to do that this year. (It was on one of those walks home last fall that I randomly found Mario playing tennis on the Dolores Park courts, just days after he'd arrived in town!)

It was a pleasant but somewhat sweat-inducing walk. (Thanks to the pedometer that Anj now regrets getting for me, I now know how long the walk is too: approx 5500 steps, or about 2.25 miles.) The walk across 18th Street, from Mission to the Castro, was nice. It was good to get out of the usual rectangle defined by our place and 16th & Mission that I typically walk every day. As I walked by Tartine, Delfina, DPC, and the park, it occurred to me how rarely I get over even that far. Also got to see the signs of 18th streets continued gentrification, and reminded me of this SFBG BizNews column about that topic, which I had planned to do a post about. I may still do a longer post on that--in particular, about how I keep thinking that the move of Fabuloid to a Mission
storefront seems like a significant one for the neighborhood: the first upscale boutique on Mission itself.

I kept going, past the glorious park (one couple playing tennis), through the Castro, up Upper Market and up into the the hills (what some call the "Swish Alps" apparently, as I read in last year's SFBG's Best of the Bay, where it
lost out to the Tandoorloin in the category of "Best New Neighborhood Name"). The views from up there--back across the Mission to the bay and across to the East Bay--are wonderful. (If you don't want to hike the hills up there, take the 33 Stanyan from the Mission to the Haight, or vice versa, since its route snakes through there. And you can even check when the next one is coming on

One of these days I'll have to follow through on my plan to walk from our place to the top of Twin's not all that much higher. But I crested where Corbett intersects with Twin Peaks Boulevard, and then descended down in Cole Valley. This part of the hike I wasn't so excited about, I suppose since I walked nearly every variation of it when we were living on Saturn our first couple months in the city, and I was commuting to work on foot.

I'd loaded up the Shuffle with some fresh tracks in the morning, including all the BE tracks, which I'd just ripped. And as I headed up Parnassus, I had one of those iPod moments, where the shuffle algorithm's computation aligns with your time, place, and being: the BE intro kicked in just as I arrived at the edge of campus.

The weather being so nice facilitated a nice SF sort of weekend. Friday afternoon on Pier 23, followed by dinner in North Beach; Saturday on the beach in Marin, followed by La Taqueria takeout for dinner; drinks Sunday afternoon at the recently renovated Cliff House. It's been occurring to me how SF isn't oriented towards the ocean--the only times I see it
are when I climb up to the top floor of our building and take in the view. So this past weekend was a nice exception to that.

Postscript: Last fall, when I was regularly biking across the city and into Golden Gate Park on Sundays for our soccer games, I thought of doing a photographic essay of the ride. Should still do that (even though I haven't made the ride since early Dec; in fact, the last time was when I got caught in the Muni tracks at Church & Duboce and wiped out!), and also do something like that for this walk to and/or from work. I'd been thinking about how I should start carrying the camera with me.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Ukraine photos on Flickr

Now that we got DillyTaunt up and running (or at least jogging), I'm trying to figure out how to divvy up my posts between there and here. I think what'll happen is that most of what I was putting up here--the political, musical, literary--will instead go over there; and this will become more of the personal--the what, where, and when of me.

E.g., here's what's been happening the last couple weeks: we were travelling, to Ukraine and Istanbul. Just got back Wed night, and still getting over the jet lag. If and when I find the time and piece of mind, I'll write something up. (My track record on this is not good. I've only written up two days of our two-week trip to South America (here and here), and that was 5 months ago.)

I did start organizing the couple hundred photos we snapped. Got them into iPhoto, and also got two iPhoto plugins which will get me to finally start using iPhoto and Flickr: Flickr Export and Keyword Assistant. (Aren't these freeware/open source programmers great? I think I might donate to these people, if I use their creations as much as I'm anticipating I will.)

So started tagging our Ukraine photos and uploading them to Flickr. Check my growing Ukraine set of photos.

Monday, May 23, 2005

reading list: Ukraine & Istanbul

Here's the reading material we brought with us for this trip:

Borderland: A Journey Through the History of Ukraine, by Anna Reid. I came across a reference to this book in an article last Nov/Dec, during the Orange Revolution (. I started it about a month ago, nearly finished with it. A great introduction to the history of (the) Ukraine--very readable and accessible. Reid was a journalist based in Ukraine, and her chapters on various episodes of Ukrainian history are framed by her own contemporary travels around the region. The only complaint I had is that I would have liked to have read more about certain topics. (For that, I suppose there is this or this.)

The White Guard by Mikhail Bulgakov and The Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogol. Both these volumes were birthday presents from Ina and Bogdan. I subsequently bought a copy of Gogol's Dead Souls, and considered bringing that with us as well, but I left that at home, for after we return. Anj started reading The White Guard about a month ago, and just finished it this morning--she enjoyed it. I'll probably start it at some point during the trip. Bulgakov is not an author I knew of, but he's one of the giants of 20th century Russian literature (Bulgakov--although he wrote in and about Kyiv--was Russian by ethnicity, and wrote in Russian). We'll probably learn much more about him next week, when we will hopefully visit the Bulgakov Museum, in the house where he lived and wrote The White Guard.

I started reading the Gogol tales earlier this week. I'll probably just read the Ukrainian tales on this trip, and leave the St. Peterburg tales for later. I've gotten through the first two so far--"St. John's Eve" and "The Night Before Christmas." Not at all what I was expecting. What I was expecting was some sort of serious and detailed naturalistic depiction of 19th century Ukrainian life--the stereotype of Russian literature, owing to Tolstoy, I suppose. But the first two tales were riotously fantastical, and the's a challenge to keep up with, as a blurb on the back of the volume put it, "the onward rush of Gogol's prose, at once disheveled and uncannily precise." I wouldn't particularly recommend those first two stories, but it may be that he was just finding his voice in those early stories. I just started the third in the collection, "The Terrible Vengeance," and it's seems to be much more readable. It reminds me of the only other Gogol I've read, Taras Bulba, in that it's the story of a Zaporozhyian Cossack. In fact, I may have to reread Taras Bulba while we're here--Ina has the copy I have her a couple years ago, just before she came for that first summer she spent here.

Istanbul: The Imperial City, by John Freely. Found this one on Amazon, and looks to be a good find--a combination of a detailed history of the city (and thus of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires), together with a travel guide to the city's monuments and historical sites. Anj started reading it on the plane--she's finding it informative, if somewhat dry.

I didn't bring any Turkish fiction with us. I did read a novella by Yeshar Kemal's over the past couple weeks, The Birds Have Also Gone, which wasn't particularly rewarding. I'd been half-intending to get a copy of Memed, My Hawk, or something by Pamuk, but that didn't happen.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Just arrived in Kyiv

Anj and I arrived in Kyiv a few hours ago. It's almost 2am here now. Our flight from Munich arrived at KBP (Kyiv-Borispil) at 11pm--about 45 minutes late, because we sat on the tarmac at MUC for a while and took off late. Lufthansa overall was good though. Direct from SFO to MUC--long (11 hours) but not bad, a short layover at MUC, then the short hop east to here.

Ina and Bogdan met us at the airport. No problems going through passport control and customs. A quick cab ride through wide and empty roads into the city and to Ina's apartment, which is quite comfortable. The building's not much too look at from the outside, and the stairway area is rather shabby--Bogdan thought the building is pre-Soviet--but the interior of the apartment looks to have been recently redone. I'm most impressed with the bathroom--a small washing machine, and an ingenious pulley-driven towel rack system over the tub.

Also the cable modem--as fast as ours in SF. Same modem in fact.

Tomorrow--we'll go around Kyiv a bit. Ina has to go the university she's affiliated with; in fact, there's a seminar series happening these few weeks, and we may attend a talk on the Orange Revolution tomorrow. Then tomorrow night we board the overnight train to Odessa.

I'll try to do a post tomorrow with the planned reading list for the trip.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

one more on Yalta / Drezner's blog

After seeing the post I put about Yalta last week, Anj pointed out
another NYT article from yesterday's paper that sums up the debate; go

In looking for that article on the Times website, I came across another one from
Sunday's paper which is tangentially related. It's written by the
historian who penned the Slate essay on Yalta that I mentioned in that
previous post. But this one is about his experiences filling in as a
guest blogger for Daniel Drezner.

Drezner's blog seems to be one of the more prominent
academic/political blogs out there. I first came across it during
Ukraine's Orange Revolution. (I was going to include a link to some
of his writing in the post(s) I did at the time on Ukraine. See his entries from
November of last year.) Since then, Drezner wrote this essay for
our alumni magazine about being an academic and a blogger (he's a poli
sci prof at the UofC).

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Bush on Yalta

Wanted to post a couple links before I file away the e-mails by which they came to me. On Tuesday, Anj sent me this article, which appeared ironically in the Strib, that criticizes Bush's speech in Latvia last weekend. Then later the same day an e-mail from Slate featured this column, which also criticizes Bush for stabbing FDR and Churchill in the back.

I was wondering about Gwynne Dyer, the author of the first article. A Google search turned up that Jack Lessenberry had written an interesting column about him (here) in February. I started reading Lessenberry's column when I used to pick up a hard copy of the Metro Times each week in Ann Arbor. I've continued to read him online. But I think I must have missed that particular column about Dyer (which strongly recommeneds Dyer's book, Future Tense : The Coming World Order?)

From Latvia, Bush of course went to Moscow, and then made a stop in Tbilisi before heading to Western Europe. This story about Bush doing a Georgian jig caught my eye. But the visit to Tbilisi also reminded me that I'd been meaning to post the link to this interesting documentary I caught on KQED a few months ago (part of the fantastic Independent Lens series).

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Architecture links

A few architecture links I've been saving to put up:
  • The NYTimes ran this prominent and positive review of the new Walker Art Center in Mpls. Remarkably I haven't been back to MN since Suvranu and Kriston's wedding, meaning June 2002. We'll have to try to get back sometime this year finally; if we do, we'll have to check out the new Walker.

  • Just today, the Times had this review of the new Holocaust memorial in Berlin. Another spot to visit someday.

  • Saved this link for the Times review of the new Caltrans District HQ bldg in downtown LA. Passed that on to Arun, who hit me back with this link to a Slate review of the same bldg.

    That link led me to a few others on Slate by that same writer, Christopher Hawthorne, including this photoessay on Koolhaas. I didn't save any of the reviews of his celebrated design for the new Seattle Public Library from a year ago, but after digging around on their site for a bit, found this extensive archive of articles.

  • Speaking of public libraries, I've been getting over to the SFPL more often in the past month. A couple times to the Main library, whose architecture I rather like, and a couple times to our Mission branch. (One of those trips to Main, picked up a nice book in the small bookstore operated by the Friends of the SFPL: "A Free Library in This City", which embeds the history of the SFPL within histories of libraries in general, and of the city of SF. And the book was only $5, as it is here.

  • Addendum, May 11: Just came across one more, a column by the prominent architecture critic Witold Rybczynski on "Chicago's Magic Kingdom", i.e., the Millenium Park in Grant Park.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Much more on later. For now, I wanted to see if the code they provide works: click on the following button to listen to a radio stream based on my profile:

Currently playing: "Chapter 13 (Rich Man vs. Poor Man)", one of my favorite tracks off of Resurrection. Before that: a 13-minute track off of Danny Hathaway Live, a J-Live track, a Biz Markie track, a track off of Kind of Blue....Hell, you can see for yourself what's being played on my page. Although the tracklisting there is an interleaving of the radio stream tracks I'm listening to right now with tracks being played through iTunes running on our computer at home. After dowloading the iTunes AudioScrobbler plugin yesterday, I've left Party Shuffle going so as to add more tracks to my profile.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Broken beat

After doing that reggaeton post last night, I thought I might do another one or two posts introducing and collecting some links on certain musical subgenres. Check back here for a post on broken beat. A few of the links I'll work in:

Broke n' Beat Radio: "A Nu Jazz and Broken Beat mix show based in Philadelphia"

Benji B's Deviation show on BBC Radio 1xtra

This article from the Bay Guardian

Riddims by the Reggaetón

I'd been hearing about reggaeton here and there over the last few months--maybe I saw a disc in Cancun's jukebox? A flyer for a reggaeton show ended up on the sidewalk outside our place. Glanced at some mix CDs by local DJs at some show(s) we hit, and then a couple weeks ago read this blog entry by Jeff Chang (more about Chang and Can't Stop Won't Stop in a future post).

At the time I didn't follow the link to the Raquel Cepeda Village Voice piece that Chang links to. It was only today, as I was cleaning out the past few weeks' VV e-mailings that I opened up that article:

Riddims by the Reggaetón
Puerto Rico's hip-hop hybrid takes over New York
by Raquel Cepeda
March 28th, 2005 3:07 PM

The article is good primer on what reggaeton is and where it comes from ("an approximately 20-year-old fusion of dancehall, born in the poorest neighborhoods in Puerto Rico, with mostly Spanish-language rap and tropical rhythms"); and who to look out for (according to Cepeda: Ivy Queen, Daddy Yankee, Don Omar, and Tego Calderón. I'm thinking Cepeda is a writer to be trusted on matter like this. I'd been saving a review-a-day from Salon of And It Don't Stop: The Best American Hip-Hop Journalism of the Last 25 Years, edited by none other than Cepeda.) It even comes with an accompanying compilation of links to sample the music online: Riddims on Demand: A Reggaetón Download Feast.

So I read the VV piece around lunchtime today. As I was walking back from 16th St. along Capp and passed Balompie Cafe, a concert poster caught my eye: Ivy Queen and Daddy Yankee at the top of the bill for a show at the Cow Palace in a week. Interesting coincidence, I thought.

After swinging by home, I strolled down S. Van Ness to the Post Office (to drop some checks for the taxman in the mail), made some phone calls while sitting in the sun outside the 24th St. BART station, and then walked back up Mission a couple blocks. Poked my head in a couple stores, and then saw that Musica Latina (Mission Music Center) had the same concert poster in the window. I took a look at some of the titles hanging behind and displayed under the counter. I didn't see anything I could recognize as reggaeton, and I headed toward the front door, but the store was quiet, so I had the chance to askthe guy working the counter if they had any reggaeton. Turns out they had plenty. His first recommendation was what I ended up walking out with--a CD/DVD set titled Chosen Few: El Documental, with the CD a collection of 25 tracks, the DVD a documentary about the music--all for only $10.

(If it turns out I and/or you need more: Guy also pointed out a 2CD/DVD set--top tracks from the past few years + the videos; while Chang recommends this mix.)

That remarkably affordable price is possible, I think, because it appears that the scene is still DIY and indie. There's no major label intermediating between the artists, the record store, and me. It may be because the hype hasn't yet filtered into their executive offices, or because reggaeton's creators have consciously held on to their creative capital. A Daddy Yankee quote in Cepeda indicates it's a mix of the two factors: " 'Reggaetón artists have learned a lot about business by studying hip-hop's history. Hip-hop had people who abused it and the first artists were taken advantage of,' says Daddy Yankee. 'We learned from it. And much like early hip-hop, the record labels ignored us.' "

I was taken aback to find, at the bottom of a flyer tucked inside the jewel case for El Documental advertising itself and some other upcoming releases, these words: "the freedom movement: FREEDOM is a movement of artists and producers who own their creative works which we deliver everywhere at revolutionary FREEDOM prices"

Speaking truth to power, and more power to them. Check the group that put out El Documental: Urban Box Office, which has lots of audio samples (and is selling El Documental for $7!).

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Fukuyama on Weber

Brady told me he's still checking on me, so I'll keep up the new spate of entries, with a UofCentric post:

I was just cleaning out some NYTimes Books Update e-mails from the past couple months, and came across an essay by Francis Fukuyama on Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism titled "The Calvinist Manifesto."

Figured I'd save the link for if and when I ever get around to reading Weber. Weber's book was one of those handful of texts that it seemed like everyone at the UofC intersected with in some core course, but it was one that I missed out on. I was talking about this when I was hanging out with Jon Groat when I was in AA last summer for SMB, and so I borrowed his copy of his bookshelf (along with a couple other sociology books he recommended, all of which have merely been sitting on our bookshelf since then).

Another one of those UofCentric texts that I missed catching while there--and that I was recently thinking that I really should read--was Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations. I've had a copy of that one all along--I received it as a high school graduation present, paired with another such text: Tocqueville's Democracy in America. (Who gives such a present as a high school graduation gift? A UofC alum, naturally.)

Tocqueville I did read, in my Soc class, but I've been thinking about revisiting ever since. Which bring me to another link I was going to post...

The current Atlantic Monthly's cover story is the first in a series in which Frenchman Bernard-Henri Lévy reprises Tocqueville's journey through America:

The Atlantic Monthly | May 2005
In the Footsteps of Tocqueville
How does America look to foreign eyes? This year marks the bicentennial of the birth of Alexis de Tocqueville, our keenest interpreter. We asked another Frenchman to travel deep into America and report on what he found by Bernard-Henri Lévy

Edward Rothstein--who we learned, through his piece on Bellow that appeared last weekend (look here), was a grad student in the Committee on Social Thought (can't get much more quintessentially UofC than that)--wrote a piece on Lévy's project that was in Monday's Times: "Touring an America Tocqueville Could Fathom."

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Freakonomics: Steven Levitt and Roland Fryer

Back in August 2003 I blogged (here) a link to a fascinating NYTimes Mag profile of a young UofC economist named Steven Levitt. (The original NYTimes link doesn't yield the full article anymore, but at the time I found this link that does.)

I was reminded of that profile because, first, the NYTimes Mag ran another very interesting profile of a young and unconventional economist a couple weeks ago: a profile of Roland Fryer, headlined "Toward a Unified Theory of Black America" (pdf).

The profile mentions that Fryer has collaborated with Levitt. In fact, both profiles were written by the same guy, Stephen Dubner, and now Dubner and Levitt have published a book on Levitt's work, titled Freakonomics. Just came across this excerpt in Slate, which describes some work of Levitt's and Fryer's on a typically atypical (and controversial) subject:

A Roshanda by Any Other Name
How do babies with super-black names fare?
By Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
Posted Monday, April 11, 2005, at 3:32 AM PT

The book's website is here.

Update (Sun, April 17): I was going to mention that Levitt & "Freakonomics" reminded me somewhat of Gladwell and his "Tipping Point", in a superficial way--popularizations of clever and counterintuitive explanations of social phenomena. Coincidentally, the newest addition to the NYTimes' op-ed roster of op-ed columnists, John Tierney, wrote a column for yesterday's paper about a public discussion between Levitt and Gladwell: "The Miracle That Wasn't"

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Saul Bellow roundup

I'd been thinking about blogging something about Bellow after a spate of essays about Augie March appeared last year, with the 50th anniversary of its publication. Below are a bunch of links that appeared after Bellow died last week.

First, for reference: the lengthy NYTimes obituary.

Also in NYTimes: A nice essay by Ian McEwan that ran on the op-ed page, centered around the barking dog of The Dean's December, touching on Bellow's stature among contemporary British writers. McEwan mentions this edition of Augie March with an introduction by Martin Amis which I'd like to pick up (searching for that link turned up links to this edition with an intro by Hitchens, and this nice Amazon feature by Aleksandar Hemon).

McEwan's essay includes a passage from Herzog which is, interestingly, as Hitchens cites in his Bellow obit ("He Was an American, Quebec-Born: Saul Bellow's legacy"), the epigraph of McEwan's new novel Saturday. More on Saturday in a later post (incl Hitchens' review of it), but for now back to Bellow--here are the famous lines from Herzog:

"Well, for instance, what it means to be a man. In a city. In a century. In transition. In a mass. Transformed by science. Under organized power. Subject to tremendous controls. In a condition caused by mechanization. After the late failure of radical hopes. In a society that was no community and devalued the person. Owing to the multiplied power of numbers which made the self negligible. Which spent military billions against foreign enemies but would not pay for order at home. Which permitted savagery and barbarism in its own great cities. At the same time, the pressure of human millions who have discovered what concerted efforts and thoughts can do. As megatons of water shape organisms on the ocean floor. As tides polish stones. As winds hollow cliffs..."

Of Bellow's novels, I've only read Augie March (in the summer after my first year of grad school, spent back at home in MN) and Ravelstein (about a year ago). I didn't feel like I really "got" either--in particular, I never really cracked Bellow's peculiar language. Which was the reason I gave up on Henderson the Rain King about 50 pages in. But in addition to a re-reading of Augie March, I'm adding Herzog (and perhaps The Dean's December and Mr. Sammler's Planet) to the near-term reading list.

Herzog is cited by Dave Eggers as "my favorite book, by anyone, anywhere, anytime" in this Slate collection of Bellow reminscences, which also has short pieces by Stanley Crouch, Hilton Als, James Atlas. While those were written in the days after his death, Salon's collection culled their selections from writers recounting their impressions of Bellow over the past 50 years. Slate also ran a piece about "Editing Bellow."

Returning to the NYTimes: there was the obligatory highbrow literary appreciation by uber-critic Michiko Kakutani ("Saul Bellow, Poet of Urban America's Dangling Men"), and two shorter, more anecdotal pieces: one by Brent Staples ("Mr. Bellow's Planet")
and one by Edward Rothstein ("Saul Bellow, Saul Bellow, Let Down Your Hair"). (Seems as if it's obligatory to headline these Bellow pieces with an allusion to a Bellow title--in which case I don't the last one.)

Both Staples and Rothstein were grad students at the UofC--their pieces come out of their (rather different) interactions and encounters with Bellow in Hyde Park. For my own small remembrance of Bellow, I was thinking I would pull out my copy of Staples's memoir Parallel Time and read the chapter about his stalking of Bellow in streets of Hyde Park. The piece above complements the Parallel Time chapter, with Staples evoking gossipy discussions of Bellow's latest novels taking place in Jimmy's. (As I've written before, I'm a fan of Staples's writing. I included in that entry links to two more of Staples' literary essays, one about Naipaul and one about Phillip Roth & Anatole Broyard.)

Finally, Bellow's city is of course Chicago (one of the reasons I feel a connection to him, even if I don't feel as if I have any sort of deep appreciation of his work). But the Times tries to claim him as <"A Writer Captivated by the Chaos of New York" as well.