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October 2004

Amy's Back from Nephew Jack's

Scan

Amy is back home, after spending four days with her sister and brother-in-law, Julie and Jim, and helping them care for their new baby, Jack, born on October 18. As is always the case when she goes away, her absence helped me appreciate all the more everything she does here to care of this family. I'm glad she enjoyed her time with Julie, Jim and Jack, but even more glad she's home again. I do hope her heightened interest in babies passes without "incident" :-).


GWB, FDR, HST, JFK ... and LBJ

In a speech today, U.S. President George W. Bush invoked a lineage of Democratic presidents:

The party of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman and John Kennedy is rightly remembered for confidence and resolve in times of war and hours of crisis. Senator Kerry has turned his back on "pay any price," and "bear any burden." He's replaced those commitments with "wait and see," and "cut and run."

A few things occured to me as I heard this fragment of the speech on NPR. First of all, I find it disturbing that our current president is pushing an agenda for tax cuts during a time of war, and wonder who he intends to be the bearer of this burden he has created. Secondly, John Kerry's questions to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in 1971 -- "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" -- reminds me of the confidence and resolve of another Democratic president, Lyndon Johnson, who appears to have been omitted from the lineage mentioned in the speech. Finally, thinking of LBJ reminds me of his vision for "The Great Society" (an excerpt from which I include below). I realize that the liberal perspective espoused in this speech may be out of vogue for some (not me), but I doubt any would claim that the political rhetoric and mudslinging of the 2004 campaign comes anywhere close to the grandness of vision articulated forty years ago by another confident, resolute president in a time of war.

Continue reading "GWB, FDR, HST, JFK ... and LBJ" »


When One Door Closes, Another Opens

I have left Intel Research Seattle to open up to new opportunities. I sent out farewell messages, and a number of people have asked for more information. I decided to post some more information on this blog, motivated in part by a desire for efficiency -- write once for multiple potential readers (a sort of pre-emptive disclosure) -- and in part by a desire for authenticity -- I've been talking about revelationary computing and the potential benefits of revealing more about our lives through digital technologies ... this gives me an opportunity to walk my talk.

Continue reading "When One Door Closes, Another Opens" »


A Visit with Captain Tom

Evantomsmall

Tom, our friend, former neighbor and United Airlines pilot, had a 24-hour layover at SeaTac, and came out to visit us. It was great to catch up with him and get an update on our old 'hood. Given that Evan was airborne recently (during his scooter accident), it seemed appropriate that we take a photo of him with Tom's pilot's cap on. (Terri: if you're reading this, we hope you'll come out with Tom next time, and both stay longer.)


The Cast is Dyed

Twocastssmall

Well, one cast is dyed (pink), the other is a "natural" color. Meg broke her left wrist playing soccer four weeks ago; Evan broke his left wrist riding on his scooter four days ago. Meg was able to resume soccer after about a week (we wrap up the cast with a towel and athletic tape, so she is not as much of a danger to others). Evan is out for the rest of his soccer season; we're hoping he will be healed in time for basketball season. The things kids will do to get out of practicing piano!


TV-B-Gone: Life-B-Here

Mitch Altman, founder of 3ware, has invented a universal remote control, TV-B-Gone, with a single function: it can toggle the power (on or off) of nearby televisions. Altman's goals are to help people extract themselves from the television world and attend to the physical world and the people around them, "improving conversation" and "freeing people from the attention-sapping hold of omnipresent television programming". Interestingly, according to reports I've read, there seem to be very few examples of people caring or even noticing when Altman uses the device to turn off a television. He has reportedly manufactured 20,000 of these devices, so it will be interesting to see how this story develops.

There are other efforts aimed at preventing people from accessing content in the digital world, e.g., cell phone jammers and WiFi jammers. A Wired article about the device speculates about future capabilities to shut down vehicle subwoofers and kill car alarms. Perhaps we're seeing a resurgence of the Luddite movement, a new dimension of the Attention Economy, or perhaps the Attention Ecology. What would life be like with a planet full of mindful people who were focused on the here and now? I'd love to find out :-).

[Originally heard about on NPR]


A Reptilian Birthday

Cap0001

We had 9 boys over for Evan's 9th Birthday Party on Saturday. The highlight of the party was Scott Petersen, The Reptile Man, who brought a frog (the most difficult of all the animals catch), a lizard (who provided pieces of an old layer of skin as "gift bags"), a tortoise (who gave rides to the kids), an alligator (who fell asleep as soon as he was petted behind the eyes) and a half-dozen snakes (non-venemous and formerly venemous) including the albino python pictured above. Scott temporarily transformed our family room into a petting zoo. I don't know who had more fun, the kids or the adults ... or perhaps even the reptiles.


Location-aware Computing: Walking the Talk, Mapping the Walk

Chris Heathcote has shared many interesting observations and insights regarding location-aware computing; he is now experiencing -- and allowing us to experience -- location-aware computing first-hand by posting his location on his web site (and linking to a map of that location). Chris is using a Pretec BluetoothGPS Wireless GPS and Mobile Data-logger, an Aspicore GSM Tracker for Symbian OS Series 60 Phones, a Nokia 6600 phone, and a custom webserver program. And why is he doing this?

A bigger question is why publish this information in public. I must admit I'm not overly happy with giving everyone access to this data, but then again, this kind of service is the near-future that designers like myself have been preaching for years. It will cause privacy problems, it will cause social embarassment, it may change the way I live. Unless I try it myself, I will never know what unexpected consequences publishing this information will have. Self-ethnography is not scientifically valid, but I think it's one of the best ways of empathising with the problems new technology creates. If I won't use it, I shouldn't expect you to either.

Chris is open to the possibility of letting others participate in this experiment, either via sharing the code or sharing the web service; it will be very interesting to see what his -- and others' -- experiences will be in this grand experiment!

[via Anne Galloway (Purse Lip Square Jaw)]


WiFi and Community

A recent Boston Globe article quoted Boston City Councilor John M. Tobin Jr. as saying "[WiFi] promotes community ... It gets people out of their dorm rooms, out of hotel rooms, and out in the parks and out in restaurants." While WiFi may encourage people to bring their laptops out of their homes, dorm rooms or hotel rooms, I don't know of any evidence demonstrating that this engenders a stronger sense of community in the WiFi-enabled physical spaces to which people bring their laptops. Seems to me that WiFi actually tends to detract from the sense of community in such places: people with laptops nearly always seem more engaged with their virtual communities (via browsing, email, instant messaging) than with the physical community of people with whom they are sharing space. I do believe that the addition of a key shared resource -- whether it be a shared display or an active virtual community tied to the physical place (or both) -- would promote a sense of community, but [alas] this does not appear to be a dimension that is typically considered in the various plans for wireless metropolitan area networks I've seen.

[via telecom-cities]