Archive for June, 2008

Apparently, I Haven’t Grown Up

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

Determining whether or not I have “grown up” using a random blog post from some site I’ve never heard of which apparently caters to women sounds like a reasonable enough course of action, right? Especially when it amounts to an e-mail friendly list of 25 items in the “you might be a redneck if” format.

Out of the entire list, I was able to find a handful which (kind of) could apply to me:

18. Eating a basket of chicken wings at three in the morning would severely upset, rather than settle, your stomach.

I’m quite certain that eating a basket of chicken wings would be a terrible idea. This has nothing to do with the 3 AM time and everything to do with the fact that I’ve been a vegetarian for half my life and could probably digest chicken wings about as well as I could digest a tin can.

20. A four dollar bottle of wine is no longer “pretty good shit.”

Last time I had bum wine was about a year ago. I think it was about $2.50 and tasted like Kool-Aid. For a little over four dollars, you could buy a bottle of Manischewitz, which does not qualify as “pretty good shit”. This means I’m growing up? Seriously? It has nothing to do with having properly functioning taste buds?

24. You drink at home to save money before going to a bar.

There is no correlation between being cheap and being mature.

That’s it: three out of twenty-five, and I’m twenty-seven. I’m already in a career, working at a real job, own a home, paid my car off years ago, and never liked going out clubbing until dawn to begin with. I’m all about spending weekends working on my home, going to IKEA is like going to Disneyland for me, and I get my ass handed to me by twelve year-olds when playing online multiplayer video games. But, apparently, I haven’t grown up.

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Bill-O Offensive? Hmm..

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008



Bill-O Offensive? Hmm.., originally uploaded by ASurroca.

Came across this while perusing podcasts. If the image offends me does that count?

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Category humor, technology | Tags:

Marquee for Jesus

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008



Marquee for Jesus, originally uploaded by ASurroca.

So, this truck in front of me has a tiny LED marquee under its license plate with a mesage about being saved by Jesus. Oh Bible Belt, you always find new ways to amuse me.

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Expensive Guacamole

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

This is a snippet of an IM conversation about expensive guacamole I just had a moment ago:

Kate: you should come over, im making kick ass guacamole
Alfonso: sweet, I’ll hop on a red eye and be there in three hours your time
Kate: awesome. sounds like a plan.
Alfonso: sweet, it’s gonna be the priciest guac ever!

Sol del guacamole

Photo: hale_popoki

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Albertsons, What a Tangled Web You Weave

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

Can you spot the real Albertsons?

Logo and slogan for Albertsons IncLogo and slogan for Albertsons LLC

There are two Albertsons supermarkets near my home. I know exactly where they are, but out of curiosity I decided to go to albertsons.com and search their locations. Instead of a list of stores, I was greeted with the notice below:

“The ZIP Code that you have entered is in an area serviced by the Albertsons LLC family of stores. To read more about Albertsons LLC, read the press release explaining the distinctions in more detail.”

Apparently, in 2006, Supervalu, CVS/pharmacy, and Cerberus Capital Management got together to purchase Albertsons, Inc. In the deal, Supervalu and Cerberus split the Albertsons roughly 50/50, with Supervalu’s batch being spun-off as New Albertsons Inc. and Cerberus’ as Albertsons LLC.

Confusing customers, one market at a time

At any rate, I was directed to albertsonsmarket.com, since my area is apparently serviced by Albertsons LLC and not New Albertsons Inc. Only one of the two Albertsons near my home showed up in this site’s search, leading me to assume that the other one belongs to Supervalu. Well, that, and the fact that it’s suspiciously close to a Supervalu-owned Sav-A-Lot.

So, I’ve got two Albertsons stores run by two different companies in my area, and they’re as different as night and day. I will say that the Albertsons LLC store is clean and inviting, where the New Albertsons Inc. store is depressingly dollar-store-esque. I haven’t paid any attention on the prices, but I think I might start.

Actually, I probably shouldn’t bother. Just last week, Publix and Albertsons LLC announced that Albertsons will be selling 30 Central Florida locations to Publix come September.

Blip: Yellow Rain

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

I was just driving home this evening and rain and sunset mixed together to make everything cool and yellowish. I’d already taken more than enough photos at times like these, so I thought I’d do something a little different. Music is: Lamb – “Five”.

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Li’l Castro, the Precocious Future Communist Dictator…

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

Wikipedia has an image of a letter 12-year old Fidel Castro wrote to Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940, wherein the future Cuban dictator asked the then-US President for $10 and offered him a sweet hook-up on quality steel for use in building ships.

Admittedly, his English was not especially good, as he mentioned in his letter. And that’s where this image comes in. When asking for $10, what he wrote, specifically, was this:

“If you like, give me a ten dollars bill green american, in the letter, because never I have not seen a ten dollars bill green american and I would like to have one of them.”

tendollarsbillgreenamerican

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Four Words: AP Sucks

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

Apparently, the Associated Press, in a noble effort to appear as much as an obsolete dinosaur as possible, has rules barring bloggers from citing more than four words out of an AP article without paying fees. See the deets at Boing Boing.

This got me thinking: What would AP headlines look like were everything past the first four words chopped off. I checked out recent AP headlines and here are a few perfectly legal fair use citations from the AP, under their stringent rules:

“Bali bomber warns of”
“Hundreds of same-sex couples”
“Cuban TV shows new”
“Celtics rout Lakers 131-92″
“Clinton asks top donors”
“Mississippi River breaks through”
“Bush to urge Congress”
“Probe: Pentagon lawyers sought”

These spartan headlines are almost more eye-catching than the five-or-more word headlines available at the AP’s site. Perhaps I’m on to something.

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Transforming In-Dash Navigation

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

Adapted from school a project write-up from last semester — When you add several ingredients together, the result will either become nothing more than a hodgepodge of dissimilar ingredients, or something new and equal to much more than the sum of its parts. The latter case is a transformation. It’s the difference between the tacked-on motion-sensor in the PlayStation 3 controller and the motion-sensitive functions of the Nintendo Wii. Or the difference between sites developed from the ground up to foster social networking and sites which added this functionality as another bullet point in their list of features. It might be difficult to tell when a media transformation has occurred, but it’s pretty easy to tell when one has not.

Several months ago, the project team I became a part of set out to create something out of little more than a marketing phrase, a few ideas stemming from it, and a combination of several media. the “product” became called NavShield. We set out to take the head up display (HUD) technology already available in some vehicles—the Corvette has had this feature for nearly a decade—combine it with several current and upcoming vehicle technologies, and refine it into something new. We started out by thinking about how “cool” it would be to project pretty Apple-esque icons onto the HUD on your windshield. I came up with ideas by driving and having “if only I had this feature” moments. The “thinking process” of the system would be something like this:

  • Navigation information is pulled from a GPS receiver (e.g. where you are and where you’re going)
  • This information is augmented with location-relevant information pulled from the internet via Wi-Fi or Wi-Max (e.g. gas stations nearby, weather in the area)
  • The location-based information is refined based on your preferences (e.g. only gas stations nearby that sell diesel fuel, only whether or not it is expected to rain in your destination at the time you are scheduled to arrive based on your current average speed)
  • Finally, the augmented, filtered information gets placed on your HUD

The group’s first tendency was to come up with as many ideas for icons as possible, and clutter the windshield with pretty icons. Just as your first tendency upon first using Mac OS X’s Dashboard or Yahoo! Widgets or Windows Vista’s Sidebar would be to search for and add any widget that perks your fancy until your desktop becomes a mess. While no harm can be done by having too many of these widgets on your computer, having too many on your windshield would be a disaster. That’s why I came up with this process above to connect and filter the data that comes in, and only display the end result.

After showing our project in its current form at the Showcase of Undergraduate Research Excellence event at UCF, the single most frequent piece of feedback we received was the following question: “What about driver distraction?” I recall that driver distraction was an issue when BMW’s iDrive debuted because many core functions’ hardware buttons were replaced with computer-like menus and sub-menus displayed on-screen. The trend is toward displaying more information on the navigation screen, and I felt that were it backed with psychological research, the NavShield project could solve this issue.

While conducting psychology experiments pertaining to driver distraction, and then usability tests on the interface are well outside scope of this one-semester project, it’s definitely the next step. In the meantime, I decided on some measures to limit driver distraction:

  • Limiting HUD to upper-third: I decided on a rule that, should something like get to working prototype stage, the HUD could only be displayed on the upper-third of the windshield. What I thought was, if the law prohibits tint below that part of the windshield because of visibility issues, then we should prohibit HUDs below that part of the windshield for the same reason.
  • Prioritizing information: Information would be grouped into several types, and prioritized. For example, when at speed, only the most important information (e.g. current speed) would be displayed, but while stopped, second-tier information could also appear. Beyond that, context- or location-relevant information would appear only when needed. For example, an arrow telling you which turn to make would only appear as the turn approaches.

The dashboard screens available in many of today’s automobiles cram as much information as viable, and it seems apparent that this information is added mostly to one-up the competition in terms of feature sets. It’s not uncommon for systems which previously gathered and displayed only navigation information now connect with and display everything from your media player’s music list to your phone’s contact list. At present, the only product on the market putting this information together in a package that feels transformational and not simply tacked-on is Microsoft’s Sync. The Dash navigation system also works similarly to what I have outlined for NavShield; for example, it combines GPS information with traffic data pulled from over the internet. Therefore, I would use these two products are the benchmarks for NavShield were the project taken further.

While I’m not so deluded to say that my project team’s semester project has already reached the level of becoming a piece of transformational media, I do feel that it’s on the right track. The idea of grabbing a lot of information from many sources, intelligently putting them together, filtering them based on user preferences, and displaying only the most relevant information is key, and I feel it means the difference between transforming disparate media into a cohesive whole versus a bullet list of features. Furthermore, even if we were to ignore the application, the idea of collecting, connecting, filtering, and displaying information has applications in any field. It’s something key to the attention data and data portability movements and something that will change the way we behave as much as social networking has.

Blip: Between Friends

Monday, June 16th, 2008

I shot a few bits of video during the drive from one friend’s home in Coral Gables to another friend’s home in South Miami. Here’s what came of it. Music: “Neuflex” by Two Lone Swordsmen.

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