Fun Friday: Star Trek Trivia Day

Everyone in my family is required to know how to program. That’s probably no surprise. But everyone also is required to know Star Trek trivia and become an expert on one or another of the many incarnations of Star Trek so we can have trivia contests in email. My daughter Sarah Jolitz always took the “most creative” award for identifying the quotes. My favorite was her answer to “Why I could love you no more than I could love a new species of bacteria” as “Uhura talking to a twinkie as she was taking a bite”.

So, in honor of Star Trek lovers everywhere, here is the lost Trek episode everyone is clamoring to see – The Lost Star Trek Christmas Episode: “A Most Illogical Holiday”. I think someone read that book “Spock, Messiah” from many years ago… And have a great weekend.

CEO Pitches, Bows and Optimism

Well, a few weeks back I got to participate in two events. One was watching Rick Bentley, CEO of Connexxed, do his elevator pitch – not in an office, but in front of a plane at the Palo Alto Airport. The second was attending the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs farewell party to Susan Hailey, their retiring CEO, after a successful tenure.

What was neat is that both events were captured with video service (“MinutePitch – Your Video Screen on the Web!“) simply and easily. Rick’s pitch is simply great. There’s nothing like watching a second-time CEO take the helm.

It was so easy to take a digital camera and capture Susan’s farewell captured in Kick-off to Fall (“Forum for Women Entrepreneurs – Bay Area Chapter“).

Fun Friday – Read a Book and Shun the Web

Well, I was chatting with Karl Schoenberger of the Merc about the dismal state of the industry, and he had a great line I just had to pass on: “I am among the 0.35 percent of Americans between 50-54 who are shunning the Internet and re-reading Raymond Chandler novels. No, we don’t have a chat room or blog about it either.”

Lest people think I never have time to read books, actually I do read books – all the time. Give up random TV sessions – the great time waster – and you’ll have plenty of time to use the Internet, read. and even work in media.

I take my kids to the library weekly and we go through about 5 books apiece. I just finished “The Birth of Venus”, a 2003 best seller, noticed today they have a new Sharpe’s rifles book and a prequel to the Mist of Avalon, along with a new Skolian series book (the author is a Harvard physicist, and I always read books by physicists, esp. women, even though Berkeley physics is better since it’s my alma mater).

But that’s not all. My husband William has a large collection of classic scifi from the 30’s-50’s as well, if you’re into unique short stories. Look up “A Logic Named Joe” by Leister if you’re down on the Internet. Totally predicts the craziness (it’s a funny story) and it was writtten in 1946 (appeared in Astounding).

Finally, I also do video commentaries as well. It’s quite different to speak an opinion piece than write one. Good exercise for the mind of a writer and a reader.

So, since it’s Friday, read a book. You’ve got the weekend to enjoy it.

Credibility and the Web – What is Video’s Influence?

Well, I was discussing David Danielson of Stanford University and his upcoming talk on “web credibility” with the VP Marketing / Branding of a client company. Basically, web credibility has to do with how information is arranged on a site to make it “trusted” to the customer – something both good security and marketing people know implicitly. So what did a hot-shot marketing guy say about an academic’s work on this topic? Plenty.

He noted that those studies on credibility did not properly address Internet video commercials and rapid turnover branded video, yet they’re finding a dramatic change in the last two years with their 18-34 age demographic in view / use of video for the buying decision.

When the Press Gets Ugly

Hurrah for John Crumpacker’s article in the SF Chronicle today on the “ugly press” at the Olympics. It’s nice to see good people in the press take others in the press to task when they act badly, and tell them to act like journalists – not badmouths.

My family watched the opening ceremonies broadcast last Friday, and we were very annoyed at the rude comments about countries marching in the Olympics by the so-called press commentators. They displayed a willful ignorance about world history. When they had to read some piece of information gathered for them about a particular country, the male commentator would say it with a smirk and a laugh, as if it was a joke. It was just plain annoying.

Momma, Don’t Let Your Kids Grow Up to Be Programmers

Well, with all the Olympics fun, forgot to mention that the CS major percentage has dropped again a few weeks back. At the same time, 25% of 18-34 age group now watch videos on the web. Very big growth, don’t you think?

Of course, who will keep this momentum going? Don’t we need creative young people to keep up with innovation? I know that people often like to think everything that we need has been invented, but this convenient mindset can be misleading.

In 1904, physics was considered a very sedate and settled field. Then Einstein published a series of papers in 1905 on special and general relativity, and also set into motion the new fields of quantum mechanics and modern statistical mechanics. Modern physics was born.

The international physics community has set aside 2005 as the World Year of Physics as a tribute to Einstein’s centennial. Of course, I follow these things since I have a physics degree myself. But maybe everyone else should take a minute and think about how in a matter of a year the world can change forever.

Your paper is silly, smells, and is ugly, ugly…

Jonathan M. Smith has an interesting idea on how to avoid blackballing in tech paper reviews.

For those not clued in (or fortunate enough to have avoided academic paper submission follies), in order to have an academic paper accepted, one must submit to double-blind review by anonymous experts in the field to evaluate whether a paper is interesting and appropriate to the conference venue without being dazzled (or tainted) by knowledge of who actually wrote it.

While in theory this approach seems quite reasonable, in practice one tends to find that papers which push the envelope, contain ideas not within the accepted compact, or even radically new treatise often meet with less-than, shall we say, open-minded and even-handed analysis?

And since it’s pretty easy to guess who’s paper it is anyways, or even find out using a google search on the keywords, which everyone does anyway to figure out if “someone else wrote something like this before, so I can use their results in my analysis”, the “double” in double-blind doesn’t really work.

So Mr. Miller has proposed (at SIGCOMM in the OO session) a simple process: 1) That all reviews be public, and 2) signed by the reviewer. According to Mr. Miller, “That way history gets to see who was right – and who was wrong.”

Sounds good to me – I’m willing to take on the judgement of history in my work, since that’s only rational. Any other takers?

Robotics and the Next Generation

Went to the 2004 First Robotics Regional Competition in Silicon Valley, held at San Jose State University. And it was awesome to see all these kids running their “bots” through the paces. Got some great footage, even though Los Gatos High School’s robot broke midway through competition.

Seeing the excitement, the fun, and the high-tech hijinks reminded me of the days when we were putting together workstations on-the-fly in a Berkeley workstation spin-out called Symmetric Computer Systems. I haven’t seen this kind of serious fun for a long time in the computer biz.

Maybe we should all be building bots…