Archive for May, 2007

Stupid Palo Alto Laws

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

Did you know that you can have your car towed in Palo Alto if you do not drive it at least 5/10 of a mile in a 72 hour period? Even if it is in front of your own home. I’ll post more on this tomorrow. I’m infuriated and prefer to have a nice sleep–after a glass (or two) of wine–before posting anything. Grrr!

Historic Joint Interview with Bill Gates and Steve Jobs at AllThingsDigital Conference

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

It’s taken me two days to watch all of the interview segments, but in the end: Wow. You would think there might be some hostility between the two men, legends of Microsoft and Apple, respectively. Humorously enough, the only thing that Bill Gates seemed peeved about in all their thirty-year history together, was the new “I’m a Mac and I’m a PC” ad campaign. In reference to ‘PC guy,’ Gates quipped, “His mother loves him.”
See CNet for a good, brief summary of the interaction. The All Things Digital website, of course, also has the full set of video segments.
Here’s a recap video:

Max Levchin, Founder of Slide and Co-Founder of Paypal

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

Max Levchin was co-founder and CTO of Paypal and is currently founder and CEO of Slide and Chairman of Yelp.



We caught up with Max Levchin at the Red Herring Spring conference in Monterey, California.
In this interview Max shares some stories from the early days at PayPal, and provides his views on entrepreneurship. Definitely note his thoughts on Paypal alums.

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Dissertation Writers Block

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

I have been staring at the screen this morning, changing a word here and there, but basically blocked.
Things I have done to try to unblock myself:

  • used OCLC to see if there were more books I could get on my topic
  • washed the dishes
  • made myself a pot of tea
  • started cleaning the stove top
  • while I’m at it I might as well start to clean the gap under the stove top and above the oven
  • clean several of the metal thingies that you put under the burners with baking soda (can’t remember what they’re called)
  • consider whether or not I should do some more data analysis (maybe construct another image, graph, or chart)
  • post here

I’m still blocked – this is the worst part – I have the data analyized for this chapter, but the write up is painful. During my first year theory seminar the prof mentioned that when he was writing his dissertation he kept cleaning his car so maybe my behavior is normal.
grr
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Computers masquerading as coffee tables

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

All technical blogs are abuzz with the news. As Microsoft is putting it, “Surface Computing has arrived”. You can find a complete demo with some incredible videos here.

It might seem like a big coffee table with a fancy top, but its in fact a powerful computer equipped with dozens of sensors and cameras monitoring the surface and running a schmoozed up version of Windows Vista. The project was secretly under development since 2001 under the code name “Milan”. Its priced in the $5000 to $10,000 range for now and is being targeted at the Hotel industry and other large corporate customers.

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John Doerr on Global Warming: “I don’t think we’re going to make it.”

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

TED Talks today released an amazing and passionate talk by famed Silicon Valley venture capitalist John Doerr today. In it, he discusses his efforts and those of his company to understand where we are and where we need to be in order to solve the climate crisis. Prognosis: Terrible. At the end of the presentation, he’s so choked up, he can’t speak.
This is a fantastic video, and a powerful call to action. Share it with friends!

“Policy is paramount.” California has capped emissions. “But it’s not enough.”

Opinion: Complaining About Public Safety – Perhaps the greater blame lies with society?

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

In the last couple of weeks the Daily has featured opinion columns by Darren Franich complaining about the presence of public safety at campus parties and public safety’s attempt to enforce compliance with federal and state drinking laws.
Before blaming a draconian administration for such heavy handed measures, students should be aware about the federal Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act.
In order to be eligible for federal funding a school “must certify that it has adopted and implemented a program to prevent the unlawful possession, use, or distribution of illicit drugs and alcohol by students and employees” (Drug-Free Schools and Campuses, Vol. 55, No. 159, Part II, 55 FR 33580, Thursday, August 16, 1990). In other words Stanford is required by federal law to document (“certify”) that it is has and is enforcing a program (“adopted and implemented a program”) which prevents students from under-aged drinking or use of illicit drugs.

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ASSU Senate Approves Airport Shuttle Program!

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

The Daily ran an article today on last night’s ASSU Senate meeting with the headline, “Senate meeting mired in debate.”
Um, isn’t the ASSU Senate a deliberative body?
Maybe I’m downplaying the contention too much, but it seems to me that the actual news from the meeting was that, in fact, the new airport shuttle program to SFO and San Jose airports has been passed overwhelmingly by the Senate. This is an incredible cost-saving opportunity for students, in my opinion, and is something that I think puts our student government in a pretty good light. Nice work, guys.
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Blogger Profiles Are Here!

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

Hey everyone,
So, a lot of people have been asking us to post profiles of some of the Stanford bloggers, obviously because of our witty, accessible writing. While we didn’t want to impose a mandatory rule, several bloggers responded to our call for profiles.
Right now, we’ve got 13 of our 40+ bloggers — and they’ve included portraits, websites, and tons of YouTube videos. Come and say hi.

Blogger Profiles!

–Jason Shen and Christian Tom (2007-2008 Co-Presidents)

Old Union Fences Come Down: What’s Next?

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

I walked around the outside of the new Old Union building this afternoon after the fences started coming down. Even though the sprinklers in the courtyard were obnoxiously at full blast, the sun was shining on the building and on the palm trees… and as I turned around to look out of the courtyard, through the arches, and onto the fountain in White Plaza, I realized, “I’ve been missing out on this view for four years.” For most of my Stanford career, Old Union held almost no meaning for me. Now, as I graduate, I am excited about all that it can be for the students who will still be here next year and for those who will just be arriving for the first time. A real student union!
It’s about time.
Watch Troy tour Old Union (from his Unions Blog):

Stanford Joins WRC, FLA

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

Today’s Daily front cover prominently features a very interesting story about Azia Kim’s involvement in ROTC, but the biggest news of the day–that Stanford is joining the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) and the Fair Labor Association (FLA)–received no notice on the news pages, and was relegated to a long op-ed by President Hennessy.
The WRC is a consortium of colleges pledging to ensure sweatshop labor is not used to produce licensed apparel with their logos, with a governing board split evenly among university administrators, representatives of United Students Against Sweatshops, and human and labor rights experts. Their website has a list of useful FAQs. (One thing to note, in particular, is that the WRC requires participating colleges to pay 1% of their gross licensing revenues up to a maximum of $50,000. I’d be curious to know how much that would end up being for Stanford.) The FLA, by contrast, is an organization with more corporate influence; according to its website, it’s a “multi-stakeholder coalition” of corporations, universities, and NGOs. Hennessy makes a good point in his op-ed that an optimal solution would have both labor activists and corporations working together in one organization; I imagine that either side would be very distrustful of an organization dominated by the other side.
Notably, Hennessy said that Stanford will not join the DSP, or Designated Suppliers Program, an additional program of the WRC that takes a significantly more activist role in ensuring sweatfree labor. In this program, universities are obligated to shift their licensed apparel (over a several year period) into factories which primarily produce college apparel. The argument is that doing so ensures that the colleges will have significant negotiating power. (Technically, the DSP will allow factories in which less than 50% of the apparel is from colleges, so long as the rest of the apparel comes from makers that will abide by the DSP’s standards, but that seems unlikely.)

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Accident Last Night on My Way Home from the Library

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

Last night around 10pm, on my way home from the library I encountered two firetrucks, a horde of firemen, and a public safety officer blocking the end of escondido (yes my camera isn’t good at night pictures).
When I asked the public safety officer checking under cars what was going on he said that a car had been damaged.
When I first saw this scene, I worried that a car had finally hit one of the bicylists who take life and limb in hand by biking in the dark san lights, helmet, reflective clothing, and who in disregard of the laws of physics do things like bike down the middle of the road or run stop signs (hint: the car is heavier than the bike). I can’t tell you the number of times at night I’ve caught the glint of the wheel reflector of a bike and hit the brakes to see a fast moving dark blur jut in front of me through a crossing. It’s just a matter of time until we see a death.
Thankfully this wasn’t it.
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Miss USA at Miss Universe Contest

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

“No words to describe it. Poetry! They should have sent a poet.”

Don’t Make the Same Mistake I Did!

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

I normally write blog posts about topics which relate directly to Stanford: our Folding@Home project, the sit-in this week, U.S. News college rankings. But today, I have a piece of advice which pertains not only to Stanford readers, but to everyone out there.
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No matter how much you liked Pirates of the Caribbean I (or even Pirates II), DO NOT– I CAUTION YOU AGAIN– DO NOT SEE the newest installment, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. It’s awful.
Clearly, lots of people were idiots like me and went to see this enormous, three-hour waste of time. (The New York Times is reporting worldwide $400 million worth of tickets were sold, in six days).
I promise you, those are three hours of your life you will never get back. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone mentions one positive: “Producer Jerry Bruckheimer does deserve a shoutout: It takes a kind of genius to sucker audiences into repeatedly buying the same party tricks.”
And there was so much wrong with this movie beyond rehashed versions of the first two movies– I don’t know where to start. The plot was weak. And confusing. Actually, I’m pretty sure that even if I could have understood it, it still would have been bad. Gene Seymour writing for Newsday says, “It won’t matter whether you’ve seen the first two Pirates movies or not. You’ll still be confused.”
I saw the movie at a 12:30am showing. We didn’t get back to campus until 4am. We all walked out of that theater exhausted, bored and confused. “Ha! Christian,” you might smirk, “That is surely why you did not enjoy the film!”
No. I spoke to a friend who say the movie at 4:30 in the afternoon and felt similarly. People who went into our showing with pirate hats and eye patches (who also gave out a hearty “yarrrrrrr!’ with the opening credits) left the theater dispirited, like someone had taken all the air of their lungs.
And sorta, Orlando Bloom and Co. did just that. Despite the stirring theme song of the movie series (you know, the one that goes dun-dun-dun-dun…dun-dun-dun-dun), the chemistry, the script, something was very off.
The end is what sucked the most. I won’t ruin it for you, in case you too are set on wasting $10, but let me say that it is one of those endings you simply don’t want to buy into. As they’re setting it up, you think to yourself, “Oh, they’ll never let this happen…” You think (you hope, perhaps) it’s one of those things where they’ll come up with some ridiculous and unbelievable way to get out of it– but at least the awful and seemingly-inevitable doesn’t happen. Except in this piece of junk, it actually does! There is even a sappy beach make-out scene with Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley which instead of being romantic or hot, is, honestly, just awkward.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t go into this film expecting theatre (-re intended). I wasn’t expecting a transcendental experience, something to sweep me away with its intricate characters or subtle artistry. I was expecting a swash-buckling pirate adventure movie. I was expecting airbrushed actors and skylines, awesome CGI battles and witty one-liners. I didn’t even get all of that.
Honestly, just save yourself some time– and unfulfilled expectation– by watching the trailer.
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Now’s Your Chance to Help Reform the OSA

Monday, May 28th, 2007

I received this in my inbox from VP Mondaire Jones the other day. You should try to make it if you have any thoughts about how the OSA (or the upcoming new Old Union) could be better:
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