Saturday, December 6, 2008

George Costanza 2.0

This article by Lifehacker tells about a new web service that lets you know the nearest restroom by a Google Maps extension. It reminds me of an episode of Seinfeld, where George claims he knows the cleanest bathroom anywhere in the city. Jerry quizzes him on several intersections, and George replies with the names of some nice office towers or clean public restrooms near them. If anybody's seen the pilot episode, where George quits his job at a real estate firm over a feud with his boss, you know that the feud was over the use of the boss' personal restroom. Anyway, we can all have our personal George on our iPhones. Goody!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Is it really that hard? (Pharma does it!)

Considering this "is it really that hard" rant, trying to bring tech companies back to common sense, I urge them to take a look back at the East Coast, with Big Pharma. Years of product testing to get to a product, which may prove to have side effects and screw you years later (Vioxx). Luckily, the tech companies don't have to do much besides pass the FCC. But still, maybe take a page from pharma's book when delving into a new market, regardless of how much VC's play it from the belt. That should help put a stop to ridiculous band-wagoning such as this.

Is it really that hard? (Netbook Edition)

Once again, a post about basic business sense. All of a sudden there is this backlash about netbooks, and everyone involved in the backlash and critique (many of whom were also part of the craze) pretend like the fad was full of a bunch of idiots. Read a TechCrunch critique here. Anyway, how does it take 8 months+ to figure out those 3 things? Granted I'm speaking from hindsight's 20/20, but most people, techies or not, saw these glaring issues from the outset. It may take some more thinking to understand the market analysis that Mr. Arrington applies, but seriously, any kid in my high school's Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) chapter could have figured that out. What happened to product testing? Does it just happen for just under an hour, so none of the flaws are revealed? Of course, these companies (Acer, Asus, Dell..) are not clueless. They've made good laptops. But haven't they noticed the 12-inch threshold for full-size keyboards? Anyway, my plea to these companies is to think for a minute before you send an order for thousands of anything to be made over in China or Taiwan or whatever. Hit the books again, and as for your high paid consultants from McKinsey, go back to business school.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Is it really that hard?

These days, every consumer electronics and personal computer company wants to be Apple. They have the best selling phone around, the best selling music devices, and are increasingly becoming a popular choice of computers for more than just the artsy type.

Two prominent Apple higher-ups have been hired by competing companies - Paul Mercer by Palm and Tom Schaaff by Sony. Both of these former Apple employees were highly successful at Apple, but have yet to really produce any high-level change at their respective companies. Sony, despite having a previously powerful controlling stake in the mobile phone, music player, and computer categories, is now pretty much banking on its high-quality HDTV's and the PlayStation 3. Apple on the other hand, has gone from the joke of the computing world to a powerhouse in Sony's old bastions. Meanwhile, Palm has lost plenty of ground to some newcomer despite being on the scene for nearly a decade when it broke ground with some affordable devices using touchscreen tech.

My question is - is it really that difficult to beat Apple? I mean, they're good at what they do, but they leave so many holes that people can exploit! How are so many of the iPhone clones missing the point! Include cut-and paste, don't make your whole phone into some weird button, include some haptic feedback, and soup up the battery life! Include some more flexible support with the file system, and we have a winner! How can Apple possibly be winning over me, who so boldly refused to buy anything from them for so many years? I use iTunes despite how slowly it runs on my PC. Why can't Microsoft include something that actively monitors music from multiple sources on the computer to keep a dynamic library, but keep the album art to the side and make it easy to view? These companies seem to think that taking a move or two from Apple's playbook is a sign of weakness, but really it shows intelligence! It's like a politician who doesn't play to what the people want - they end up loosing! Do what the people want, then give them some of what you think they want. That's how you win them over - when you can pull off the latter, after doing the former. Instead, Palm, Sony, and Microsoft are all trying to do what they think we want in the hopes that we will somewhat concede what we KNOW we want. If people want a simple interface, give it to them! Put the complicated stuff under the hood.

These companies thrived when the people using electronics were savvy. Now, we're moving to an era when the average consumer can use things but isn't likely to use the powertoys or care about all the easter eggs underneath. Even power users, like myself, are finding that we'd rather forgo the flexibility for shininess. If only I could get both! It's much easier to make something that's flexible into something that's shiny (
Ubuntu) than vice versa. It would take Apple a while to make something that's as flexible as Windows. Windows is getting shinier too, but not as fast as it needs to.

I find it hard to imagine that the people who Apple hires are that much smarter than the people at Sony or Palm. I know people who have worked at both companies in fact. I think the issue is much more at the core values of the company. Apple values design. If you've ever read 
Fake Steve Jobs' blog, you'll see (albeit unofficially) that Apple begins with marketing, rather than ending with it. Shouldn't everything be like that, at least to some extent? Basic business classes talk about making a new business plan of sorts for each product. And it's not like the prices are greatly different for consumer devices, though they might be for computers. This is not something that can't be solved in two product cycles. C'mon. Is it really that hard?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Way to Get Free Stuff, Doing Nothing

I just started using SwagBucks. It seems like a good way to earn
points without doing much, simply by using it as your search function.
And no worries, because it uses Google search and not some weird weak

Web Bubble

Makes me proud to be a Silicon Valley native. You never really leave the Valley... I guess I'm always going to have tech in my blood. Medicine's just a way to specify what gadgets I get to use.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Gadget Atrophy

Sometimes, despite how many gadgets I set up for myself to remember
things, something falls between the cracks. I can use Google Calendar
or Sandy or whatever to set a reminder for myself, but there are many
fewer things you can do if you accidentally fall asleep. Which is why
I want to be able to have my phone give me alarms even in silent mode
for some things, or perhaps program it to turn silent at times and
back on right after. This is a problem for many students - we turn our
phones on silent or vibrate during class, and often keep it that way
during the day and forget to switch it back later. Without the ring,
what's the point? Today's "smartphones" need to get on this. Stat.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Stop the Speaker Buzz!

This post might seem a bit noob, considering that I've taken so many physics classes. But in trying to fix my Logitech X-240 speakers (a nice cheap buy on Slickdeals if you can find 'em), I found out something pretty cool - the effect of electromagnetic interference on speakers because of induced current in the speaker input cables. The current creates an errant, high frequency (thus the buzz) signal in the cables on the way from your device to the output. Since I got my new laptop, I haven't been using my AC-powered external hard drive much. This afternoon, while listening to music, I turned it on and later realized that they were buzzing. It took some forum searching to find out that devices around the speakers and not just cable-crossing could mess this up.

To turn this into something bigger that it is.... many times we tend to thing that things don't matter or that once something is dealt with, it's done. Like deleting a file - it's still there (try Googling "ghost bits"), or the effect of phytochemicals on fad diets, or in this case, how cable clutter under your desk actually affects your speaker sound quality. Interesting how things are interdependent.

Monday, October 6, 2008


I'm currently writing this from my iPod. But that's not special,
right? Wrong. It is actually being written on my iPod, which is
currently controlling my laptop, which happens to be on my desk while
I'm watching CNN using Livestation. A post on that piece of cool
software coming soon. But QwasiPad is something to be talked about
now. It's the cheapest and most easily functional computer-control app
that I've seen so far in the App Store. It works very easily with a
trackpad and keyboard which makes this quite easy to type an email for
direct-to-post on Blogger. Check it out - for $3 you can't go wrong.
And especially considering this is the first app that I've actually
paid for, you KNOW it's gotta be good!

Monday, September 29, 2008

El Toro

Yesterday I got to ride what I have now ranked on my top 3 coasters
I've ever ridden. This wooden coaster, located at Six Flags Great
Adventure in New Jersey, takes more turns and risks than many steel coasters and is far more frightening than anything except maybe Kingda Ka, located right near it in the park. I tend to underestimate wooden coasters, as do many people nowadays. But don't doubt this beast - by the end I was begging to be on a real bull instead of in my seat aboard El Toro.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Drexel Free Stuff

All college students love free stuff. Especially me. Many of my friends and associates often ask me where and how I manage to get so much free stuff and why I'm quite obsessed with it, so I decided to start a GCal for all the free stuff that's going to be around Drexel University and to some extent, the rest of Philadelphia as well. The link is below - you can subscribe to it using Google Calendar as it's public. If you use some other format, that's also compatible with iCal. The XML feed is also up for those who want to subscribe via RSS. I'll try to update this as often as possible, but its going to take me some time to add in all the stuff that's flowing our way this week! Also, it's not complete as it will be filtered to what is most relevant... free pizza is plentiful, but I try to hit the cool stuff like water ice, cheap Ross Commons food, etc. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sarah Palin Email Leak Spur Jokes

I was just on Gawker and the comments regarding Sarah Palin's Y! Mail leak are pretty hilarious, so I compiled them:

Internet: bridge to nowhere
Their in-home network = Alaskan Pipeline.
Their computer crash was the Exxon Valdez oil spill
Oregon Trail game = the Palin's driveway
MP3: the seal's mating call
Spyware = Siberian who got lost somewhere outside of Nome.
Antivirus software = rifle
Heated igloo=computer lab
Computer mouse = actual walrus
Keyboard = eskimo's ribcage.
Mouse=a real Arctic mouse
Power cord = Aleutian Island chain
Computer screensaver: aurora borealis
Printer = Aleut calligrapher
Cursor = Blinking Eskimo
Hard drive = small chamber deep in the base of Mt. McKinley

Seriously, who uses Yahoo of all things for work email? Some serious obstruction of justice questions are being raised...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Next Gen Apps

Now we're starting to see some really cool apps and fewer "me too" types... such as those who joined in the deluge of Yelp-driven restaurant reviews and tip calculators.

Simplify Media: wirelessly access your whole iTunes library and playlists. Personally I think this should be built in, along with the Artist info and Lyrics capabilities. No longer is the tradeoff between cool device (iPhone/Touch) and having all your music (Classic) needed. You can keep as much as you want on your smaller capacity device and just stream the rest of them from your computer. Yes. This quite simply a media sever, but the best part is how easy it is to set up and quietly it runs on your computer, in terms of memory usage. It's great for singing along to your music without having to go to a lyrics site, search, and open up the song you want too. I keep it right next to the Remote app, first page.

AirSharing: I'm still trying to work with this one, since they haven't built Vista 64 bit support yet. Vista support is getting much better though with the upcoming 1.0.1 release. Updates later, but in short it lets you use your Touch or iPhone as a wireless USB drive. You mount it on your computer and you can transfer files back and forth and open up any of the recognizable formats (documents, presentations, spreadsheets, PDF) on the go, offline. Of course you can put other files on it as well, but not for viewing. I find myself using it for the openable formats, but not for others (since I carry a 2GB flash drive with me on my keys). 

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Elevator Vs expressway culture

Sent via iPod Touch

Prebiotic Synthesis

Since taking Evolution (BIO 460) during the spring quarter, I have become especially interested in the field of prebiotic synthesis - the field that tries to find what biochemical reactions preceded the earliest life forms (and thus further proving to Sarah Palin and gang that we didn't just show up 6000 years ago). In an article published in Science, Barta argues that the reaction barrier to a condensation reaction to link amino acids as opposed to a acid-base reaction (since AA's are amphoteric in nature). The mechanism of the reaction is pretty interesting, check it out!

Aston Martins

Lately, I've been seeing a lot of Aston Martins. At first, I thought it was due to the release of the lower-end V8 Vantage (if you call $120,000+ low-end). However, it seeems that people are picking up a ton of DB7s. Maybe in anticipation of the new Bond movie, Quantum of Solace? There's seemingly no trend going on that I can latch on to.. I've seen convertibles, hard-tops, DB7's, Vanquishes, and Vantages. Whatever it may be, it makes me very gleeful. Keep it up rich folk.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Mashing RSS Feeds

I've never really needed to do much with RSS feeds besides read a few news sources and blogs easily. However, today I came across the need to mashup several sources and then filter them - a search on multiple RSS feeds, based on the content of each. I went through a few barebones web services, and then I came across Yahoo Pipes - I was floored. The interface is quite amazing - aesthetically pleasing and easy to use but amazingly powerful and versatile. You can filter based on a million things from the title, description, density, length, and more, and easily put together all your search criteria in a visual format and then publish it. Even nicer, you don't have to keep using Yahoo! anymore - you can use whatever RSS tool you'd like and just subscribe to the single feed. My weapon of choice is NewsNetWire for my iPod Touch. Way to go guys!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Balance Billing

There's been a lot of talk lately about the practice of balance billing, especially in California. Balance billing occurs when a doctor charges more for a service than an insurance company is willing to pay, and thus the doctor charges the patient (illegally) for the balance. While I certainly believe that the practice is unethical if it is prohibited and patients don't know any better, is it really that unfair? Doctors put a lot of work into doctoring... shouldn't they be properly compensated? Should they really be just barely covering the costs because people buy small insurance coverages or because Medicare/HMOs are too stingy? In the case of a patient in need of emergency care that the insurer wouldn't cover, balance billing is unethical. Agreed. But what about otherwise? Nobody seems to be pissed at their insurance company for this... just at the doctors for being audacious enough for asking for what they charged. It's tantamount to paying a $1 for a $5 loaf of bread and saying that you really needed it, so the store should just give it to you. This never happens with other professionals - could you imagine winning a court case (like having a successful surgery) and not fully paying your attorney what he was due? Dr. Atul Gawande, author of Complications and Better, has made this argument before. Maybe going into the profession I'm sort of biased toward protecting doctors from the flak they get these days, but at the very least the blame should be shared with short-changing insurance providers?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


MobileMe without the hassle or stolen $100/year! Nuevasync is still in beta, but it provides Exchange-based over the air sync to your iPod Touch/iPhone/other web-enabled device (they focus on Nokia smartphones). It's easy to set up and for a relatively small company, they're doing a good job. They are very nice about posting on their blog when servers are down for maintenance/bugs etc., but since it's happening somewhat often (once a week or so), I'd recommend adding them to your RSS feed so you know when not to completely rely on it. They're still working on getting GMail running through Exchange, but for now I have an over-the -air sync for Google Calendar and Contacts. The only downside is I thought I could sync back into Outlook when I sync my iPod but it [the iPod] won't do both over-the-air and Outlook sync. 'sall good! I have free OTA syncing and it works great!

Google Chrome is out!

Somehow, Google's most daring product release ever (I think) is getting very little press. Well, besides the NYT and all. I just downloaded Google Chrome, the new browser straight from the doers of no evil. It's impressively fast, and it makes sense why - if you get through their entertaining but verbose 25-page comic. They've built it from the ground up for Web 2.0 and webapps that take full advantage of new features in browsing. While the features on the surface are nothing new, the infrastructure beneath allows this browser to run very fast and be rock solid. IE8 is supposed to be very much like this with the sandbox structure to keep malware from crashing the browser and other such features, but given that this is open source and will certainly have plenty of plugins, I'm looking forward to my next few weeks testing this baby out.


Looks like this summer is going pretty well with the discovery of new music through Pandora when suddenly I run across Songza, an online service that lets me create playlists and listen to any song I want! It seems to be using YouTube (or so I've read). Anyway, I can even listen to the new Metallica single, "The Day that Never Comes" from their upcoming album, Death Magnetic. They have pretty full and complete collections from the artists I've typed in so far, and it seems like a quick and easy way to get a playlist going when you go over to your friends house and want to show them some new music but you forgot your iPod. Furthermore, it works (decently) on my iPod Touch - maybe on other mobile platforms as well. Of course it's not as nice as the Pandora app, but it has more functionality - as a result of fewer deals with record companies and such.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Mojave Experiment

No, not some secret nuclear research group in Los Alamos or Area 51. The Mojave Experiment was run by Microsoft last month and has not been blogged about much in the mainstream blogosphere (Engadget, Valleywag, Techcrunch). So I decided to give ol' MSFT a hand. They essentially did what Pepsi did with the "Pepsi Challenge" by blind-user testing people with Vista, claiming it was a new OS code-named Mojave. "Mojave" got much better reviews than Vista did - almost double the rating. This tells me nothing, because I was pretty happy with Vista when I started using it at work this summer. I would have got it earlier if my poor Dell Inspiron 600m could have taken it. Most of the anti-Vista sentiment is the visceral reaction of many people against everything from Redmond, combined with some harsh but creative "Get A Mac" ads out of 1 Infinite Loop.

Check out the results for yourself.

iPod Touch/iPhone Gripes

iPod Touch/iPhone wishlist:After using the iPod Touch for about a month now (each), my friend Simon and I have come up with a wishlist for Apple's hot touchgadgets. While some of these are highly unlikely and probably only important to a niche market, I hope many of you will agree and wait for Steve to announce a really cool looking way to do this that limits everything (I have issues with how closed off Apple is at times, which is the same thing Mac users say about Microsoft, ironically). Anyway, without further ado...

=Copy/paste (update: coming soon!)

- Open link in new tab (Safari)

-Continue playing music from other apps (so I can listen to Pandora while playing a game)

-iTunes radio stations (although AOL radio is the best thing they've done since AIM)

- Yelp for the touch!!!----
-Tabbed browsing (switch without tap)
-Reload-previous page on stop command
-Faster boot
-Easier app-closing
-Backplate replacement/complimentary buffing service
-Faster sync
-Google calendar sync/default
-Email search and tagging
-Play music apps while playing games
-Hidden options manual
-dedicated text-entry "button" - email
-Autofill forms
-Custom icon (other than web pages
-Reverse scroll on home page
-landscape keyboard option standard for all apps
-screen orientation lock
-edit font size to full width
-edit font type
-complete full screen reading
-auto scroll down
-louder alarm
-infrared tv remote
-multiplayer games across wifi/infrared

I Want Sandy

I usually don't like to make pitches even for cool products, because I often cant 1) afford them or 2) really make good use of them. But Sandy is an exception, and no I'm not personifying my Crackberry or something. is a web-based personal assistant service, and free for those of us who aren't CEOs. You can email Sandy with any reminder, to-do item, appointment, or whatever. My dad has a recurring reminder to sleep at 1 AM every day, which can be sent via email or text. The texting function is especially good because with the amount of email most of us get, we tend to ignore it (especially those people who have real assistants). It seems trivial, but it's actually really nice to just type something really fast than use the sometimes clumsy interfaces of digital calendars, which are the main reason people don't use them. Bits and bytes of text have not yet replaced chicken scratch on the backs of envelopes for many, mostly for speed. Typing and digital tools are great for things that would otherwise be time-consuming (typing a book or report for example), but not yet for the really fast things. An analogy is that it's easier to walk to the corner store than jump in your car and have to find parking too. Anyway, a quick email is all it takes, and there's a mountain of sync options:

1) Sync with Outlook calendar and to-do list through iCalendar
2) Sync with any other calendar like Google calendar that can support a web-feed
3) RSS feed (then open up new/old entries on your mobile device - including iPhone/Touch)
4) Through either outlook or web-based Google calendar or RSS, you can check it on your mobile device. Friends who use it can also set reminders for shared appointments, etc.
5) Absolutely the coolest, though it's gonna be fee-based starting next week. Jott Pro links up with Sandy so you can actually talk with your assistant with your voice!

I have already missed several meetings at work because I've been engrossed in another one meeting and been late for another, more imporant one because I wasn't at my desk to get the Outlook reminder. If I had gotten a text, it would've been awesome! You can also edit the email address to be something to your liking, and also enable other email addresses (your work and personal email for example) to set reminders/tasks/appts. This way, you can keep everything else the way you like it with the same software but not let things fall through the cracks!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Music In the Shower

Most everybody I know sings in the shower, if only now and then. I tend to alternate signing and thinking about potential blog entries personally, but I digress. Why aren't shower radios/CD players/waterproof iPod skins more plentiful? In my apartment my roommates and I have taken to blasting music through our surround sound systems in our respective rooms so we can hear it through the walls in the bathroom, but mostly the treble gets lost and all i hear is the rhythmic bass of hip-hop songs from the subwoofer. I'd really like to be able to enjoy some punk-rock in there too - so seriously, less copycat iPod docks and more music in the shower gadgetry! It's not really that hard - I just need something that can handle a few drops of water and not go buggy, or even something unobtrusive that I can hang right outside the shower that won't get muffled and doesn't mind a little moisture and steam. If it could be wireless and could access a dynamic iTunes playlist, that would be great. It's pretty cool to download a bunch of music from a new artist and assess with some suds, right? Or test out a new movie soundtrack with some conditioner? Maybe Bill and Steve already have this up their sleeves as part of their "take over your house" initiatives, but leak something so I can dream about my bathroom being added to the rest of my home which is slowly but surely approaching media nirvana.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Death of the Superwatch

As late as the 90s, secret agents in movies, including 007 of course, were equipped by their respective Q's with superwatches of the future. The watch would be able to control everything from a car to sattelite communications. Of course, it also came with a handy high-powered laser. What happened to all that? The cell phone. Gone are the days it seems, when the device that almost anybody had at hand (haha...) was their wristwatch. You put it on in the morning, took it off and placed it on your nightstand. Kids used to be excited to get their first watches because the felt like "big-kids" - I remember! But now I can't think of more than few of my friends that wear watches, and one of them only does it on special occassions and just for fashion. Will I ever see the superwatches of yore that I used to dream about after watching Bond movies? Probably not. But it seems the cell phone has taken over. The smartphone will soon be ubiquitous and will follow of the trend of starting out really bulky, slimming down to the point where people can stand that extra weight in their pocket, and then consuming so many devices around it as it becomes "smarter". Too bad. I was really hoping to plunk down for the extra-high powered laser on my first Rolex.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Evolution is lazy and doesn't care about the old

Having read a few books about evolution recently, it certainly seems like evolution is a bit lazy. Random mutation creates traits that may or may not be beneficial to the organism in the short run. The ones that are selected for are those that are beneficial in the short term (technically, those that improve reproductive fitness). Traits that help an organism in the short term (before reproductive maturity) and help an organism to survive till that point are selected for - even those that are detrimental down the line. Many genetic disorders such as (I can't remember - it's one of those that are commonly referred to in genetics books... Huntington's?) are adult-onset, usually during mid-life, after one has kids. Thus this disease is not selected for and the person survives to pass on the disease DNA. There has been research into whether these disease provide some moderate level of benefit to the organism, or whether they are just "piggyback diseases", similar to piggyback bills in Congress that just happen to make it through because they don't really matter and are passed along with another, more prominent one. IF this is the case, evolution is lazy - it conferred that particular benefit without regard for its detimental effects, or in another way of thinking about it, it was the "easiest" way to confer the benefit (by completely ignoring the massive downside). Of course, that's not true, but it's an amusing and cynical way of thinking about. In the same way it doesn't care about geriatrics - there is essentially no pressure against disease that appear late in life.

I have long thought about how humans have thwarted evolution in many senses - we don't necessarily mate according to fitness. The people who have kids are in no way representative of the most fit genetically, but rather that they just best followed the memes of society or socially matched up with someone enough to reproduce. We're living to ages way beyond our bodies were prepared for, and unlike any other species, mental fitness matters immensely over physical fitness. Of course, professional athletes do pretty well for themselves, but otherwise, as a species, we survive because of our minds. Our scientific/medical knowledge has brought up our whole society rather than preserving only the individuals who happen to have that knowledge, as would a beneficial physical trait.

For example, imagine a dinosaur that grows extra long and sharp claws because of some mutation in the claw-growth-stopping-gene. It's hard to imagine that trait would help all of that dinosaur's species. On the other hand, if I come up with a vaccine for HIV next week, it would help our whole species, diminishing the fitness-spread between me (the one with the trait that actually made the vaccine) and the rest of the population. Not that we shouldn't cooperate of course. Just musing.

Posts to Come

-'Wanted' review
-'Mongol' review
-Musing on NYT's 'Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State' and 'Obama's Money Class'

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Dasavatharam Review

On Saturday night I went out to see Dasavatharam, a new Tamil movie starring Kamal Hasan. The movie, originally slated for Deepavali 2007 release, has been in the works for a long time and it certainly shows. Despite the critiques many have put forth, it is a quality work, especially given the budget it had in comparison to many American films. Pentafour did a lot of the CGI, and having been to their studios I have seen that they are quite well equipped to handle a job as this and they did quite well. While its certainly not LucasArts, for the majority of the movie there weren't blatant differences between the real and CGI aspects. Kamal takes on 10 roles in the movie, the most ever, and interaction between the characters is significant. While some roles are somewhat superfluous (in the sense that they aren't needed for the story but to reach 10 they are), most play a good role in the plot development. For example there's a Japanese character whose role seems very peripheral, but I must concede that they did a great job making Kamal's eyes look oriental. Other roles are: a tall, amicable Muslim man, a Telugu detective, President Bush, a Sikh singer, a CIA agent, an old lady, a bioscientist, a staunch Iyengar in the 12th century, and a Christian looking to end cultural depravity. The plot is a bit of a stretch, since it seems that salt would kill such a powerful virus, but it gives "reason" for the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami (which I didn't know they were calling that...). Overall, it has a good effect and is entertaining at the same time as an action movie. 4.5/5

Friday, June 20, 2008

Frozen Yogurt

This week instead of my usual nightly pearl milk tea (bubble tea, tapioca tea, PMT) run, it seems I've made a switch - the new thing to do is frozen yogurt? I was surprised to learn this as I have just returned back to the Valley for a significant time since last summer, and trends here are certainly as ephemeral as the old dot-coms were. Anyway, there seem to be a great variety of styles of frozen yogurt (in texture, temperature, color, taste), toppings, store environments, and pricing structures. So far I've only gone to Yogurtland and I Heart Yogurt, which are perhaps the two opposites in structure and style. Yogurtland is very much modern, chic-style design with lots of glass and steel, self-serve, charged by the ounce. On the opposite hand, I Heart Yogurt has fewer options but rotates them so there's a new set of flavors daily, with more traditional toppings choices (as opposed to the fruit and great variety at Yogurtland). The interior design is rather simplistic. Personally, I liked the I Heart Yogurt the best, but I have yet to check out the other two - Tartini and Froyo. More on this breaking story later!

On a sad note, "FinestBlackBeatz" has been temporarily shut down - supposedly the guy running it is an engineering student or something?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

North Beach Festival

Today I went to the North Beach Festival in San Francisco, CA. For the next few months I'll be covering events and other happenings in the Bay Area instead of Philly. Anyway, it was a great festival showcasing San Francisco and its great diversity. There were booths peddling various flavors of jewelry, clothes, art, and yes - food. The jewelry ranged from authentic cultural types of jewlery (I saw some South/Central American stuff) to more stylistic, urban jewlery. The clothes were all over the place, from humorous T-shirt vendors to ridiculous-looking summer BBQ wear with odd patterns on it to alternative cultural icons on organic cotton tees and tanks. My favorite of the day was a series of baby shirts that said, "I'm <1,>, what's your excuse?". The art was also great, with many artists and photographers showcasing both international pieces, abstract, and many San Francisco ones. Several aspiring photographers could also been seen going up to Coit Tower, which was a stone's throw up a steep hill from the north edge of the festival. The food was great too - everything from mozzerella skewers to corn on the cob to many ethnic delicacies, as well as a host of vendors selling different marinades, oils, and sauces that they had concocted. Personally I was tantalized by a Spicy Teriyaki Ginger sauce, which I'll try out sometime this week and post what I came up with.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Last summer I had the chance to visit a pretty cool company called Powerset through a series of free lunches at various companies in the Valley, titled "Lunch 2.0". I started reading their blog which chronicles some of the issues which they are tackling and some oddities about language, which struck me as interesting. Now they've come up with something for their sematics-based search function called "Factz", which links the search to various related Wikipedia articles and shows you where the word came from in the sentence. For example, a search on epigenetics, which I'll be starting some research on soon, links to "Factz" under a subtopic of "factors". Impressively enough, clicking on that actually mentions exactly what I'll be researching - epigenetic phenomenon and their relation to the causes of senescence.

You can also search questions, which seems to be the strong suit of Powerset's search tool over most other mainstream ones. For example, a search of "What did Dwight Howard win" links to Factz about the Slam Dunk contest and the 2008 All-Star Game.

Check it out it's pretty cool!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Haru Sushi in Philly

Yesterday I got the chance to visit a nice sushi place in Old City (Philadelphia) with a really cool Japanese twist on some standard desserts. Out of the many cool options, I chose the "Strawberry Cheesecake Tempura", mostly because it sounded cool and I didn't want just another ice cream or chocolate lava cake. However, the tempura did frighten me a little bit - how would fried food like that go well with something sweet and fruity? I've had fried bananas before and those turned out well, but I was nevertheless afraid. What happened was pretty cool - much like the fried cream cheese that some people enjoy so much, this had tempura batter surrounding a filling of cheesecake, along with a delectable strawberry dipping sauce. For a non-fusion restaurant, that's pretty impressive. The rest of their menu options are reasonably priced and from what I had (the few vegetarian rolls), you don't sacrifice quality. Check them out at 3rd and Chestnut or online (they have multiple metropolitan locations) at

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Health Law Conference

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending a Health Law conference for professors (I got a special registration) held at Drexel University. It was quite interesting, though I was not able to attend too many of the sessions. Either way most of it would have been legal jargon and over my head, but it is nice to think of lawyers as something other than blood sucking parasites that ruin doctors' lives, as they are usually portrayed. Rather, it seems that most lawyers in the health field genuinely care about patient care, human rights, and global health just like physicians and nurses do. They ponder deeply about bioethics and new and emerging problems, sculpting the law to be able to tackle these novel issues. What I found most interesting yesterday was something that I had heard about in the news but only really heard in detail about yesterday during one of the plenaries. Supposedly, many people have been requesting voluntary amputations of either their legs or arms for reasons such as "it doesn't feel right on my body" or "I would feel freer without it". Is it legal and ethical for a surgeon to provide such a service? It is similar to part of the testimony delivered in Roe v. Wade, since home abortions were extremely dangerous and attempted far too routinely. One can only imagine the horrors of a botched home amputation.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Why don't more people blog?

Blogging has been found to be have calming effects for those with chronic diseases and cancer patients. Furthermore, it gives one an outlet and contact with potentially many people. And, if you're good and people like what you have to say, you can make a few bucks. Why could it be that most people don't blog or even read others' blogs? While blogging has gotten much publicity and many people know of their existence, only 25% of Americans will ever read a blog in a given month. Are the blogs out there just not satisfying people as well as their favorite magazines and newspapers are? As far as I'm concerned, for specialty interests, blogs are as good as they get. It gives you a direct link to someone in that niche community and allows you to share and exchange ideas. Some of my best music comes from suggestions given on blogs. A lot of what I know about the world of electronics does, and new cars, etc. And time isn't an issue - Americans are spending increasingly more hours at their computers, often just checking their email or fantasy baseball/basketball/football teams. So what gives?

Monday, June 2, 2008

The First Protein

Which of the well known critical cell proteins would have formed first and started a cascade that would lead to life? I'm not too well read on prebiotic synthesis and other such matters, but it seems to me that it would have been very beneficial for DNA polymerase to be created at the very least. Thus at least some DNA would be replicated, which seems to be the very minimum for life, right? At the same time to make most proteins you need some sort of a ribosome as it is difficult to carry out the reaction needed to polymerize amino acids in a normal environment. This is the function of one of the units of the ribosome (forget whether it is the 70 or 30S). Anyway, just a musing - any thoughts?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Guerilla Radio

So I was on the radio today, as a guest DJ with my friend Tim Plunkett. I must say it's pretty cool that Drexel has its own radio station, and being on the inside I got a cool tour and some nice factoids as well. Supposedly Drexel has the largest private record collection on the East Coast (rivalled by the Library of Congress). Even though several other colleges have their own radio stations, Drexel's is very much student oriented and popular as a result, voted top reggae station for several years. There's actually a live DJ for most hours of the day with most shows being about 2-3 hours, which is a pretty good variety of music. I was pitching in today with some Indian remixes of bhangra, pop, and Hindi songs to complement Tim's rather eclectic tastes as well. Check out WKDU at 91.7 FM in the Philly area or online at

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Mediation and Exercise

There have been many articles comparing both mediation and exercise, and so I thought I'd comment on the issue too. The result from the practice of either is very good for the body, and the feeling that results during that practice is also the same. I did some mediation for the first time in a while yesterday. I'm always exercising, so while I was meditating and supposed to be thinking about nothing, I thought about how I really felt like I was running, though I was dead still. Repeated, endurance-style exercise tends to be the most similar to mediation. For example, the last set of lifting or ab-workouts or long distance runs. More on this later!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Epithelium and Skins

So today in my Developmental Biology class we were learning about some of the various experiments and effects of over or underexpressing certain soluble factors. And it made me think of how intuitive this was, much in the similar manner to creating a skin for a computer program. When you take apart a template as such, you can begin to see how the pieces work immediately and as you make small tinkerings (changing numbers in the XML script, for instance) to larger ones (changing full lines or blocks of code), it is very much similar to messing with developing embryos to see what fate certain actions bring. This is the same with any kind of coding really, but I really got the same feel as I feel these scientists did yesterday when I was editing parts of the skin for my new modded XBox.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Modding the XBox

Well, I'm currently transferring the files to mod the XBox via FTP, now that the capability has been activated. I must say, this brings an amazing thrill to see that the insides of these electronic components are simply just a computer, with much more functionality than you would imagine otherwise; no longer is a console just a game box! I havn't had this thrill since last summer when I hacked my Motorola RAZR V3. With the cell phone being even more ubiquitous, perhaps that is more applicable to many of you, especially since the RAZR is the most popular phone of all time. With such popularity comes much work among the hacking community (as with the iPhone, whose insides were solved in a matter of days). It really gives you a sense of uniqueness when you take something that everyone has and modify it the same as you would your room or cubicle. In such a digital age, this is the way to be an individual!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

India's Development

There seems to be a lot these days about India's growth, and I recently wrote an essay on the challenges that India will face as it continues along this road. I identified infrastructural issues as being the primary challenge. The problem is, how do you fix something that broad, and what is the best way to go about that?

Yes, you can get the private sector and the international community (in the form of MNCs) involved and get them to have a stake in the success of the country. Still, is it possible to fix a country with such a high population density? And how do you ensure that you bring up the whole country and not just the middle and upper classes? This is especially important in India, as more than half of the country is under the poverty line.

And, which infrastructural issue should be attacked first to best allow for trickle-down benefits? Electricity? Water? Roads? This is a tough but crucial issue. The fate of 1/6 of the world's population depends on it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

UPenn Archeology and Anthropology Museum

Today I visited the UPenn Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, primarily for the new "Surviving" exhibit. It goes into evolution, specifically human evolution, and how many of our current traits have ancestral (plesiomorphic) origins. However, I believe that the phrasing of the explanations in the exhibit is dangerous, because it indicates a erroneous cause-and-effect relationship in order to make it easy to understand. Whereas Darwin indicated that random changes in the population are selected for, which leads to the persistence of beneficial adaptations, the exhibit tended to explain that the reason we have certain characteristics is for a purpose. This is dangerously close to Intelligent Design, even though the exhibit's authors clearly believe in ancient, non-creationist origins. What we should be inculcating in today's youth and in all of society in general is that natural selection is the main mechanism of evolution and how this occurs, as this is what makes evolution the most clear. While it is certainly amazing that we are what we are and that our bodies are amazingly intricate, such phraseology leads to incorrect understanding.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Softmodding and XBox

So, my roommates and I bought a classic XBox off Craigslist for $40, controllers and games included. But that wasn't enough fun for us, especially since we're all avid torrenters as well with a penchant for free stuff. So we decided to mod the XBox. For some reason I had never heard of softmodding, perhaps because all my friends run chip modding businesses. Either way, watch out for the sweet setup that's coming (pics to be posted as well). At the bottom is the skin that we've chosen for the Box. Here's what I'm looking forward to:

- XBox loaded with XBMC (XBox Media Center)
- Streaming Movies, YouTube videos, and TV Shows to the Box
- Playing DVDs from the XBox
- Playing old-school N64, SNES, etc. games
- Downloading new (old) XBox games instead of sifting through the Gamestop clearance box

Oh. And checking the weather.

Software that some people use that should be more popular

VLC Media Player: hands down, the best media player out there.
Google Desktop: blows standard windows search and even the new one out of the water. Ridiculously fast.
WinAce: versatile, easy to use zipping software. .ace is one of the most compressed forms out there, and it also works with more standard rar and zip files.
uTorrent: very streamlined, easy-to-use torrent client. Takes up minimal hard drive and memory, and runs beautifully and dutifully in the background.

Please add your favorites as suggestions!

Software that I use that nobody does

Sometimes, people who use my computer get really confused. They look for iTunes and they don't find it. Or Firefox. Or AIM. Is it possible that I don't listen to music, browse, or instant message on my computer? Quite the contrary. Here's what I use instead:

Music: Windows Media Player. Nice and simple, and it gets the job done. If you already have all your music in a folder and its organized, there's no reason to use iTunes. Especially if you have a simple flash mp3 player like a Sansa or Creative one, it's very easy to drag-and-drop files right into it.

Browsing: Maxthon 2.1. Why? Because way back in the day, when Mozilla was really slow and I was looking to escape IE5, I found it and it made my day. I've stuck by it loyally ever since. Some of the best features that it has but Firefox doesn't have are Super Drag and Drop and special mouse commands. For example, if I move my mouse up and down really quickly, it refreshes the page. Sweet.

Instant Messaging: Trillian Pro 3. This is an absolutely awesome software that I've been using since 2002. The pro version needs a bit of keygen searching, but it may even be worth the $25 they charge. From one application you can connect to IRC, YIM, MSN, AIM, and ICQ. Furthermore, you can get plugins to give you all the functionality of the Vista Sidebar, which I've enjoyed for years. You can get slick skins and override people's obnoxious typeface settings. This way, I can stand the geeks who think its cool to have lime-green on black Courier or the Plastics who insist on Comic Sans violet on pink text.

Am I weird for all this? Perhaps. But try these three out, and they might just bring as much joy to you as they have to me. They should all be easily available with a good Google.



I've decided to create a blog just to catalogue and publish my many thoughts, ideas, reviews, hopes, dreams, jokes, and rants. Enjoy!