I’m a fan of optical illusions

I came across the Koffka ring and the Checkershadow optical illusions earlier this morning. Very cool! Here’s the checkershadow in-lined:

(the square labelled ‘A’ and the square labelled ‘B’ are the same color!)

Seeing these two optical illusions reminded me of the rotating snakes optical illusions that I think were slashdotted a long time ago. He’s got a few new ones up that are as interesting and along similar lines as the original.

Something I’d love to see in Google Desktop

Something that I’d love to see in Google Desktop/Sidebar is a much better version of the Windows “My recent documents” feature. I’d like to be able to browse documents that I’ve opened in the past much like I can browse through my browser history. Maybe an application specific browser would be useful too (to effectively replace the MRU feature in Microsoft Word and Excel and promote it up a higher level in the OS). I remember reading that David Gelernter was developing some new paradigm for file management that could replace the traditional folder/sub-folder model. Maybe that’s something that could be implemented in Google Desktop? I’m sure Google has a name internally for things that they can’t do because they don’t control the operating system (like they can’t build searchability into the filesystem, for example — they have to instead crawl the filesystem) — “OS blocked”? Maybe Google would be “OS blocked” from creating something like this. It seems like a simple place though where they could do some innovation and make a visible impact on people’s user experience with PCs (and control more of the user experience). It’s a step away from their focus on search, but in many cases, I want to browse, not search. And the traditional folder/sub-folder model sucks when it comes to browsing because it requires stuff to be organized in the first place.

Related thought: It would be cool if my laptop had a GPS sensor built-in so I could not only browse by date/time, but also by geography, ie “I’d like to see all the webpages and documents that looked at or worked on while I was in San Jose last week.” That kind of association is more natural and seamless than folder or date/time.

Google’s not going to buy Skype

I have to get in on the commentary because I think the idea of Google buying Skype is ridiculous. This article was posted on slashdot earlier this morning and the idea of Google buying Skype have been floating around in the blogosphere for a little bit now. I really doubt this happening. I’m inclined to agree with Dave that Google’s new IM package will be an eventual Skype killer (or force them to adopt an open standard rather than a proprietary one).

There’s a deep cultural difference between Skype and Google Talk, a difference that happens to be Google Talk’s only strong selling point right now: Google Talk is based on an open standard (Jabber). Skype is proprietary. Oil and water. Google’s not buying Skype. (There is one other thing that Google Talk has: it’s so freaking clean compared to it’s advertisement laden competitors — but I’m not sure how much that’s going to do to get people to switch).

Rob gives bad advice on digital SLRs

Rob Pegoraro’s column in this weekends Washington Post was a general buyer’s guide to digital cameras and I liked the the no-nonsense advice he gave out until I read this:

That, in turn, undercuts one of the primary advantages of digital cameras — the ability to take one to as many places as possible. That’s also why I don’t recommend D-SLRs — “digital single-lens reflex” models that, like their film equivalents, let you frame a shot through the same lens used by the image sensor. They take extremely sharp pictures and do so extremely quickly, but they also cost far more and are hardly smaller than film SLRs. Hold off on any D-SLR shopping until you find you’re making photography a serious hobby.

I disagree here. The benefit of the extremely fast photo taking seriously outweighs the “downsides” of extra disk space. You don’t need to have photography as a serious hobby to get big benefits from a digital SLR. Fast photo taking is one of those things that’s hard to understand the benefit of until you actually have it. And I’m generally a photo geek and a technology geek so you might discount my opinion here, but my wife who is neither LOVES our Canon EOS digital, she absolutely swears by it. With a young baby (they never sit still!) or kids that play sports or perform in school plays or WHATEVER, the quick response time from a camera fundamentally changes the quality of the shots that you get — not in terms of pixel quality, but in terms of capturing what you intended to capture and not an image 1-2 seconds later.

Yes, the bulkiness is a disadvantage but it’s outweighed (no pun intended) by the shift in the results you get from digital SLRs.

Now if only the makers of smaller digital cameras (the stuff that Rob exclusively advocates) could put the storage buffers and whatever else gives digital SLRs a quicker response time on digital SLRs into the next generation of Digital Elphs, we’d have the best of both worlds.

Palestinian Study Tour — photographs from 1997

Back in 1997, while I was still in college, I took a class on the history of the Palestinians and I was part of a subset of the class that went on a 2 week study tour to the Palestinian territories in Israel. Most of us stayed near Jerusalem and during our stay, we traveled to Ramallah, Bethlehem, the Gaza strip, Tel Aviv, and Haifa. Organized by student Allison Fine, the trip included private meetings between our group and key Palestinian leaders and intellectuals like Sari Nuseibeh and Haider Abdul Shafi.

I shot about 30 rolls of 36-exposure black and white film on the trip, probably the most significant photography project that I have ever undertaken. I got back to school and processed all of the film myself and put together quite an exhibit of phtoographs. I’ve always meant to put the photographs online because I’m really proud of the photographs I took on that trip but never got around to it until now. I hope to put up more of my photographs here along with captions and more information, but for now, I’ve uploaded a selection of photographs from the Palestinian Study Tour. All of the B&W’s were taken by me. Color photographs were taken by Adam Reiser. Adam, where are you these days?

always explain the why

This is a simple rule, but I think it’s a valuable one in several if not all spheres of life — business and family for sure. I think it will make me a better parent.

Necktie overload

I realized tonight that I have way too many ties.

I’ve had this mostly broken tie rotator in my closet for the past year or so (it used to work before that). When I’ve wanted to find a tie to wear, I’ve had to manually rotate the belt to circulate the ties. I decided to take action and remove this broken piece of technology today. So I ripped it off the hanger rod in my closet and that’s when I realized just how many ties I have.

How many? I’d say the count is easily above 50, maybe approaching 75. I’m not sure where these things came from, but somewhere along the way I picked up a bunch of ties. Yes, it is ridiculous. Want a tie?