…surrounded by reality

At dinner the other day, A— quoted someone saying:

“San Francisco. 14 square miles surrounded by reality.”

I thought that was rather clever as I seem to like a slight self-effacement now and again. I bothered to look up the full reference. It turns out the quote was by our very own Mayor McDreamy and he really said:

“San Francisco, a wacky wonderful place, a place of dreamers and doers. I think someone described San Francisco as ‘49 square miles surrounded by reality.’ I kind of like that.
—Mayor Gavin Newsom, Speech at the Sierra Summit

I guess they didn’t have Google in San Francisco in 2005, because Gavin is quoting a saying about Madison, Wisconsinthe Left Coast of Wisconsin.

Sometimes, reality is a big old let down.

Parting shot. I love this city.

Zippers

My grandfather once told me this story:

Every day, on his way to work as a chemistry professor at the University of Utah (1948-1973), my grandfather would pass the same man walking the other way. For some reason, each never exchanged more than a tacit acknowledgement of the other. This bothered my grandfather, but as it had happened so often, it had become the protocol.

Then one day, as they were walking toward each other, the man extended his hand to my grandfather.

Finally a chance to meet this man! my grandfather thought and happily extended his hand in return.

“No,” the man said as his hand formed into a point, “your zipper is down.”

I mention this story, because now is the second time in two days I’ve gone hours before realizing I forgot to zip up.

My grandfather is very famous in his home country. I heard there is a statue of him at a university there and he’s buried in the national cemetery. Somehow the thought of this embarrassment of one of Korea’s most famous scientists makes mine a little less.

I miss my grandfather.

Nerd cool

After the SXSWi party, a random mention of my blog caused a discussion of how—as evidenced by the popularity of shows such as The Big Bang Theory and Chuck, not to mention 21 which will be airing at SXSW this year—geeks are now “chic.”

Worst part about geeks being chic?
Right index finger gets tired from clicking “bury” on Digg.

Best part about geeks being chic?
Don’t have to change.

Worst part of the next generation growing up in geek chic?
Trauma-free angst == emo. (Hate Paul Graham all you want, the guy speaks from experience, I’ll miss that.)

Best part of the next generation growing up in geek chic?
Less body odor.

Geek girlz > *
Geek girlz > *
Citizen Space, South of Market, San Francisco, California

Leica M8, Cosina-Voigtländer NOKTON 35mm F1.2 Aspherical
1/16sec, iso 320, 35mm (47mm)

Okay, the gradual change in guy-girl ratio at tech events is also a plus.

The purpose of pr0n

In the early 90’s, random dot stereograms made really popular geek posters.

I haven’t a clue what this really looks like. click here to view larger. You can view more and get other stereogram paraphernalia here.

To view them, you had to unfocus your eyes a bit and then stare at infinity. I could never do this so I never saw the fucking giraffes, giraffes fucking, or whatever that others claimed they saw. This caused me to develop quite an elaborate conspiracy theory around the Magic Eye corporation.

When I walk to work, I have this insanely long internal monolog. During a twelve minute walk, I create at least one blog entry I’ll never write and come up with three clever turns of phrases of which maybe I’ll remember one of them in the future and someone will say, “I’ll quote you on that”—but they won’t and we’ll forget it together forever.

However, if you stuck one of those posters in front of me right then, my eyes are so unfocused, I’d probably be able to see the fucking giraffe fucking and finally dispel a conspiracy theory of my youth.

[The Blog Post Who Lived. After the jump.] Continue reading

Every so often you need to be reminded

(For my cousin Alex who asked I blog more often about politics.)

On Obama’s Iowa win:

“Hope could give way to fear once again. But, for tonight at least, it holds a mirror up to the face of America, and we can look at ourselves with pride.…It’s the kind of country we’ve always imagined ourselves being — even if in the last seven years we fell horribly short: a young country, an optimistic country, a forward-looking country, a country not afraid to take risks or to dream big.”
—Ariana Huffington, “Obama Wins Iowa: Why Everyone Has a Reason to Celebrate Tonight

I mentioned before that I chose the category “religion and politics” because I am a strong believer in the separation of Church and State in the body politic, but never in ourselves.

Our morals inform every decision.

[Fear and Morals, Death and Triumphalism, Silence and Responsibility after the jump] Continue reading

Why we call Jesus “Lord”

Scott blogs about (Advanced) Dungeons and Dragons and it brings back memories of Sunday School.

It was third grade sunday school, We are talking about why we refer to God as “Our Lord.” “Does anyone know what a ‘lord’ is,” the nun asks?

Nobody else knows. I raise my hand.

“Yes, Terry?”

“It’s a tenth level fighter!” I answer.

The whole class freezes… and then bursts out into laughter.

The nun continues, “That may be true, but in the middle ages…

You can bet I had no trouble answering this question in 6th grade social studies segment on feudalism.

Sometimes when we’re most embarrassed is when we learn the most.

(Embarrassed because clearly a fighter becomes a lord at the 9th level, not the 10th. ;-) )

Thank you Dad (and Santa) for giving me the Basic D&D set in the third grade.

I go down the rabbit hole.
The day I first laid eyes on this, my life changed forever.

I have this box in storage in the South Bay. And people wonder why I don’t clean out my storage?!

Camera purchasing advice

I shoot Nikon.

Shooting its brother
Shooting its brother
North Beach, San Francisco, California

Leica M8, Cosina-Voightlander Nokton 35mm/1.2
1/22sec @ f/2, iso 160, 35mm (47mm)

That doesn’t mean you should shoot it also.

After remembering how camera brand religious wars are waged, I am reminded of this outdated article I wrote—not really that outdated.

Basically in it I point out that, yes, there are differences in camera brands. They’re differences, not “betters.” Or…

“Photons don’t care what logo is on the front of your camera.”

A camera purchase is ultimately a personal decision. The best camera to buy is the camera that speaks to you, not someone else:

“Who is behind the lens? The shutter button only accepts one finger at a time.”

They’re not taking the photo, you are. Grow a pair; make a choice—it’s your choice, not theirs.

And remember, no matter what camera you chose, a camera you’d carry is its most important feature. My favorite saying:

“The best camera to have is the one you have on you.”

…and that advice never will be outdated.

Geez, all these aphorisms make me feel like the Poor Richard of photography. ;-)

My Leica gang sign
My Leica gang sign
Gallery Lounge, South of Market, San Francisco, California

Leica M8, Cosina-Voightlander Nokton 35mm/1.2
1/10sec, iso 640, 35mm (47mm)

At a party recenty, someone said, “You’re that guy with the expensive camera.” So I guess I put the “poor” in “Poor Richard.”

Why I win photography arguments

because I have facts on my side.

Here is a typical exchange:

Scoble: You put a 24 mm on my camera [Canon 5D] and it’s a 24mm. Put it on a [Nikon] D80, for instance, and it becomes something like a 28mm. (link)

Me: You’re smoking something. A 24mm on a D80 is still a 24mm. The FIELD OF VIEW is like a 36mm on your 5D. (link) The issue you are alluding to with wide angles being better on “full frame cameras” is related to something called retrofocal design. (link)

Scoble: …this shot wouldn’t be the same. (link TRUE). Look at that shot and see the guy to the left? He wouldn’t be there if I was using a non-full-frame sensor camera. (link FALSE)

[An explanation after the jump.] Continue reading

Dial-a-gender

Twice this month I found that I’ve found that I’m a better conversationalist when I’m waiting in line to use the bathroom in those bars, places, or homes that don’t have separate bathrooms by gender.

I guess it’s the combination of boredom, a captive audience, and the need to distract myself from my bladder causes me to strike up a conversation.

It gets me wondering if this is one reason women, who have to endure “the pee line” on an almost daily basis, go to the bathroom in groups.

But mostly it gets me thinking about an obscure piece of Caltech arcana.

In the North Houses, the bathrooms have urinals, stalls, showers and a sink. This makes them impossible to have a locked door/pee line combination. They were designed at a time when the campus was single-gendered (male). When they became multi-gendered, before that balance was anything remotely like a geek event, this represented a big logistical problem.

The solution, I felt, was quite clever. Basically all you needed was an old LP, a nail, and a white-out pen and created the dial-a-gender bathroom:

Dial-A-Gender
Just turn the wheel…like magic!

(I thought the bottom quadrant was quite clever.)

[The death of dial-a-gender after the jump] Continue reading

You tell that other boy, not to touch the woodwork