Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Presenting Data and Information course by Edward Tufte

Monday I went to a seminar on how to effectively present data by one of the masters of visual information, Edward Tufte, with more info here.

It was in the Doubletree Hotel, and I parked in the parking garage and decided to walk down the stairs instead of taking the elevator. This corridor is straight out of the movies.

I figured if something was going to go down, this was the place. Luckily (for them), nothing happened.

The seminar was in a conference room, and they had some surprisingly good coffee.

Here is another "review" of his seminars by someone else that went - some great details that I left out.

ET, as he is known online and to the community, is a great presenter, and I liked his style. Most of it was him talking with a little bit of some multimedia stuff. He's a Mac guy, but he doesn't come off as pretentious.

Patrons of the seminar received four of his books, which I heartily recommend. They are fantastic references as well as just plain great reading.

I also picked up a copy of his mother's book, Artful Sentences.

So why did I take this course? I have to present a lot of data, the lion's share of it is performance data, and my customers are engineering, marketing and sales. Whatever I can use to make what I show more effective (and have them come back to me less) is a win!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Evolution of Netflix DVD shipping wrappers.

I found a short article about how Netflix has changed the design of their DVD mailers over the years - check it out.

Here is a direct link to the gallery of mailers from the beginning. I think the earliest mailer I can remember is the 2001 era mailer, #9 on the list.

We're on our second run of Netflix memberships, and we have definitely been affected by their (in)famous DVD throttling plan. There seems to be a DVD distribution hub located in Austin, so delivery has gotten faster lately.

The mailers are famously red and can be picked out at a distance, as seen here. I've wondered about Netflix thieves watching the post offices for those telltale envelopes, but it turns out a lot of such scams exist. There is even what must be an upper echelon of discriminating DVD thieves, as seen here.

Monday, December 03, 2007

More 3d benchmark

I'm trying to revamp my 3d city for the benchmark. I came up with some back of the envelope (literally) sketches, and I'm getting closer to something I like, but I'm not there yet.

I'm torn between a center landmark with streets radiating out from it and the basic city block layout. I also plan to have some elevated roadways as well as some flying vehicles.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

You mean I can get a new rate...AND syphilis?

I got a nice email the other day. Whoever this person is seems pretty helpful! Who wouldn't want a $200,000 loan for $626 per month?

Something tells me that the "gift that keeps on giving" isn't a good rate. If this person actually followed my blog they would know that I'm used to getting mail from unusual people. Something like this almost doesn't even show up on my radar!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


I just started playing Portal the other night, and I'm hooked! Portal is a game that also acts like a technology demo. If you've played any first-person-shooter computer game you instantly know how the control scheme, but the twist is the Portal device. This will let you create portals on different surfaces that allow you to solve puzzles and complete levels.

I was going to just "check it out" a little bit when I started and before I realized what was going on I was at level 15 and it was about 12:30am - an hour flew by!

If you must know more, check out the wikipedia article, but beware - it contains spoilers.

I'm not even going to attempt to create more of a mini-review than this, but I highly recommend this game! It is bundled in the Orange Box, which is a fantastic deal (if you haven't already played/own Half-Life 2) in that $37.99 (lowest price I've seen it at Circuit City) gets you Half-Life 2, Episode 1, Episode 2, Portal and Team Fortress 2 (the latest revision of the granddaddy of class-based shooters...this time with sublime art direction). That's alotta gaming bang for the buck!

As I mentioned in the previous post's comments, a 2D Flash version of Portal is here.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Stacks of games

We just got to spend over $650 in games at lunch today. It's kind of surreal to be looking at a stack like this, but I don't mind!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

New 3d benchmark work

There is an industry standard benchmark for measuring overall system performance that we (as well as everyone in the, uh, industry) use for our own benchmarking, competitive analysis, etc.

It's made up of multiple suites, and one of the suites is a 3D subsystem test, but it is 3D in name only. It loads a scene in a popular 3D application...and renders it to a file. Basically, it is a CPU stress test. Great for processor scaling...not so great for 3D graphics, as the benchmark result scales with processor frequency and cache and not with the graphics chipset.

I'm working on developing a new 3D suite, and one of the subtest will be a cityscape with airships, roads, etc. It's in its infancy, but here are some preliminary shots. No lighting, no textures, and these are only four city "tiles."

My plan is to duplicate these tiles with rotation and some tweaking, as well as add some larger buildings and skyscrapers to break up the skyline.

Here is a shot from within 3D Studio MAX. I'm using the built-in Polygon Counter and I've highlighted one of the original tiles. Each tile is 27080 polygons, with the set of four reaching 108320 polygons.

I'm not sure how close I'll get to this level of buildings, but I definitely want to make an effort on texturing so they'll hold up to observation while the scene is playing.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving from...THE VIOLATOR!

I was flipping through a Bed, Bath and Beyond circular in the mail the other day. Imagine my horror and surprise when I stumbled upon this...product.

Luckily online viewers aren't treated to such a sight.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Harmonica Hero

Someone sent this out today and I can't stop watching it!

Now I definitely need an Xbox 360!

Thanks Louis!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Don't Click It!

So I thought I was done with a quick blog note (previous Moleskine entry), but somewhere along the way I found a link to a project called Don't Click It.

It's pretty interesting, and I like it but it seems like the click is ingrained into my right hand.

I especially liked the Autopilot feature where you can view the first 20 seconds of previous visitors to the site.

Moleskine Notebook

My wife bought me a Moleskine notebook a while back, and I love it. It is the hard pocket-sized ruled notebook, and it is perfect for carrying everywhere and taking notes, ideas, drawings, etc.

I have all kinds of variants of the composition notebook, both softcover and hardback, for work, and that's great for work. When I'm on my own, though, I want something smaller. There is a pocket-sized composition notebook, and although I've seen a few friends use it I prefer the Moleskine, as did Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent Van Gogh and Ernest Hemingway!

Still want to learn more about Moleskine? Try The Moleskinerie. I'm like, whoa!

Already have a Moleskine and want two? Check out this hack (literally!).

Thanks again, honey!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

San Francisco, Wrapping it up

Next to the last day. We woke up and I had an omelet and a mocha at a place called Squat and Gobble.

We were headed to ILM for a tour but we took the long way and walked down to the Exploratorium. A lot of cool stuff that we didn't have time to see.

We continued to the bay to check out the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. I usually don't smile when I take self portraits, but I decided to buck my own system here.

Now this is a tailgate party! Wine, cheese, tablecloths?!? These Californians are really putting it to it! I have to assume that they are here watching the sailboat race and not gathering in my honor.

Now we are at ILM. I saw some pretty amazing concept art, incredibly detailed props and miniatures and Pee Wee Herman and Buzz Lightyear doing some truly awful things to each other. Unfortunately a lot of this stuff was in no-camera zones, but take my word for it - it was awesome.

After ILM we went across the Golden Gate Bridge through San Rafeal to try to get in to Big Rock Ranch, the Lucas animation company. Unfortunately there was some mix up, and while we could go in and have lunch in the common cafeteria, we couldn't really get a tour.

Some random Rolls Royce.

The terrain was really rugged and mountainous, and we were driving pretty sportily on a winding road great for spirited driving.

Lunch at Big Rock Ranch. We just barely made lunchtime, so I think they heaped our plates with what was left.

After Big Rock Ranch we drove around to Skywalker Sound, which was nestled in a secluded forest bowl surrounded by mountains and land that George Lucas owned. Seriously - he bought everything that you could see.

This should show both, with landmarks like Lake Ewok, etc.

So we get back to the Marina. It's not yet dinnertime, yet we need something to eat. What's a pair of hetero dudes to do that is both snacky AND hip?


I had my first car bomb that night, and we had some midnight pizza at our second choice. The first choice, Pizza Orgasmica, was so packed we couldn't get close to the door.

More pictures here.

I had a great time, did a little work and got to see some stuff that I may never have had a chance to see otherwise. Thanks Dave!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

San Francisco, Day 5

Is this thing on? Finally an update!

Day 5, my last day in the hotel and all work business is done. I had until noon to check out, so walked down to another local place, Tart to Tart, for breakfast, again checking out the mocha.

I got everything packed, held my bags at the hotel and walked down to the Metreon again to check out the Leonardo da Vinci exhibit. It was okay, but I should have read this review first. Goodbye, $20!

Lunch saw me at Sanraku again, but this time more miso soup, California rolls and Teriyaki chicken, which was great.

So I've got some time to kill, and I need to get closer to the Presidio. Cab? No way! I walked, after checking with the concierge about some places to check out. He suggested a route that took me through Chinatown, Little Italy (is it really called that?) and some parks.

Little did I know my route was going to be 3.7 miles, while carrying a stuffed backpack and my suitcase, which the airport told me weighed 40 pounds. Hopefully that took care of that breakfast's mocha! Here's what I walked. I wish I could show an interactive Google Map, but I'm getting no love from the pathfinding AI - it's making me look like I took all these weird side streets.

Here is the entrance gate to Chinatown. If I weren't so encumbered with my baggage I would have stepped into some stores. Plenty of samurai swords, by the way.

This is the Stinking Rose, which I walked by accidentally. I've eaten there once before when I worked at a different company, and it is AWESOME...if you like garlic. I LOVE garlic.

Street poles like this made sure I knew I was in the Italian district.

I'm on a little beach at the coast now, with Ghirardelli Square behind me, the Golden Gate Bridge to my left and Alcatraz to my right.

I finally meet up with David and we have dinner at a meat skewering place, Asqew Grill, where they actually call the non-meat items on the menu "Starches."

After dinner we head down to ILM, and outside one of the entrances is this Yoda Fountain.

We caught a screening of 3:10 to Yuma in a theater for Academy members to screen movies for consideration (Dave, correct me if I'm wrong), and it didn't disappoint. Picture and sound were top notch, and I really liked the movie as well.

More pictures here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

San Francisco, Day 4

Last official day at "work" in San Fran. I took off to get some breakfast at a coffee shop - Specialty's Cafe and Bakery - around the corner from the hotel that I saw when we were looking for Indian food the night before. A great mocha and ham+egg+cheese breakfast sandwich thing.

After our last day of the press tour I went out again and picked up some cards (Spider Man) from a comics and art museum a few doors down from the hotel. I tried the balcony on one of the floors in the hotel to take a few more self-portraits and write some letters.

Lunchtime found me just taking off down Mission Street. I passed a spot between two office buildings with a slowly rotating structure and a large clump of bamboo.

I didn't see it on my way back, so I didn't get to investigate. What I did see was a huge flock of grey pigeons, with one brown one in their midst. Later on people would be hanging out at this park bench going, "What's up, pigeons?" "We're chill," reply the birds. Indeed!

I swing into Noah's Bagels, which looks like a nice New York style deli place, and have an Odwalla Superfood juice, a Reuben sandwich on marbled rye (great, and my only complaint is that I prefer my bread more toasted) and a chocolate chip cookie, which was huge and good, but can't compare to the best (my wife's).

Here is my route. A brisk 1.6 miles from my hotel to The Embarcadero and back, so I may have worked off the first sip of whipped cream from this morning's mocha!

That evening we went to Americano Restaurant & Bar, which happened to be one street away from The Embarcadero...right where I was a few hours earlier! I talked the group into walking instead of taking a cab.

I couldn't decide between two Syrahs for wine, so I took one with the appetizer and one with the meal, and I liked the first one better. Which ones were they? Data...lost. Wait, I found the wine menu, all thirteen pages! The one I liked was SYRAH, LOST CANYON STAGE GULCH VINEYARD, SONOMA COAST, 2004, at $12/glass, and the one I thought was just okay was SYRAH, D’ALESSANDRO, CORTONA, 2002, a bargain at $9/glass.

Here is there dinner menu. For appetizers we got the FRA’MANI HANDCRAFTED SALUMI, the MARIN SUN FARMS BEEF CARPACCIO, the “MARGARITA” PIZZETTA and another pizza that I can't find.

For dinner, I went out on a limb and chose the HERITAGE PORK DUO, which is described as slow roasted loin, seared belly, brussel sprouts, pickled shallots, carrot and jalepeno [sic] puree.

Yes, seared belly. The pig's belly. I guess that is the second part of the pork "duo" along with the loin. It was okay - not my favorite. The jalapeno (which was misspelled on the menu) puree was what originally intrigued me, but I'm not even sure I tasted it.

It was close to midnight by the time we got back to the hotel, and I needed some coffee. The only place around that was open was Mel's Drive-In, which was up a few blocks. I sat at the bar, had a few cups of coffee and struck up a conversation about math (pi, phi, Fibonacci), photography (rule of thirds) and philosophy with someone who happened to be from Austin (AMD) in town for a conference!

Here are a few more pics.