Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year's!

2008 has finally come to an end, and with it comes a history making year. In addition to suffering through all of those political ads and attacks, 200u8 will best be remembered by an awe-inspiring Olympics and the volatile stock markets and recessing economy. And of course, the election of the nations first African-American President. Hoping for a better 2009 everybody!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Hope everyone enjoys a nice day opening presents only to find gift cards! :) And if you don't celebrate it, then have a Happy Holiday!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Time Machine

The folks at Chad,Matt& have created an interactive video series which requires you, the viewer, to choose what action they trio takes in the storyline. Although there is only one ending that they guide you towards (with wrong choices leading to horrible, horrible consequences), it makes for a fun-filled half-hour.

Start your adventure here!

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Lesson in Economics

Recently, the proposals by the Ravitch Commission on how to save the MTA were attacked by numerous politicans in the area for being an "unfair tax" and as ridiculous ideas. Yet there is a reason why politicians always come up with even more ridiculous and nonsensical plans. As Second Avenue Sagas puts it, Assemblyman Micah Kellner and City Comptroller William Thompson suggested a new fee of $50 per year for a driver's license.

Therein lies two problems with their plan. The first would be that people who do not drive would be forced to pay eight times the amount for a form of ID. This may discourage people from getting or keeping their licenses, a threat not only to national security but also to themselves, should anything ever happen to them. And sure, in New York State, you could get a Non-Driver ID, but what if you needed to drive in an emergency or for a trip? Secondly, as Angus and Julia puts it, people would be more encouraged to drive to get back their $50.

Of course, there is still plenty of time for city and state legislators to make up their minds behind the Ravitch proposals before the public is outraged at having to pay more fares while getting much, much less service. The MTA board will vote on it in March 2009, with its enactment in June. Hopefully, by then, our elected officials will saddle up behind the plans that will truly save the MTA...and the riders and drivers.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Seth MacFarlane

Seth MacFarlane, creator of hit TV comedies Family Guy and American Dad! won the award of the smartest person in television. His cartoon enterprise has raked in over $1 billion. Plus, his shows are Hilarious!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Warning: Made in China (2nd Post)

In October, I blogged about how all sorts of products made in China were increasingly susceptible to toxins, most recently-food. Just last week, Hong Kong authorities found trace of melamine again in imported Chinese eggs. This comes a day before the news from TIME Magazine that the avian (bird) flu was found in poultry in the city's markets. This caused a 3-week shutdown of the poultry market (some chickens are sold live in HK) and raised questions of whether the bird flu vaccine was still active. All this makes for an interesting (or deprived?) visit to Hong Kong.

Friday, December 12, 2008

New South Ferry Terminal

Ben from Second Avenue Sagas got invited to a press tour of the new South Ferry Terminal in Lower Manhattan and shares his pics...their awesome! I can't wait to go see it for myself.

Here's his preview:

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Arrest This Murderer NOW

Earlier this week, a passenger fatally stabbed a bus driver on the B46 route in Brooklyn illustrated the immorality some people have. The passenger did not pay the fare when boarding after his MetroCard failed to work and was not confronted by the driver, as per their protocol. However, when that passenger demanded that the driver give him a free transfer ticket, the driver refused since he had not paid for his ride. The passenger then got off the bus but got back on to stab the driver with a knife. The suspect then fled the scene. The driver leaves behind two children.

It has been 27 years since the last fatal bus driver attack in New York City. The problem are passengers who either refuse to pay or simply sneak aboard from the rear exit of the bus. This tactics are both barbaric and unethical, and most often characterize people who may perhaps have a criminal history or malicious intent. This is why there is a need for greater police on the most problematic bus routes in order to decrease this type of activity.

I Told You So!

Well, more like I told my parents, but the average gas price this year never exceeded $5 a gallon, despite what felt like ever-increasing prices earlier this year!

>>>ABCNews-Low Gas Prices Mean Holiday Savings

Friday, December 5, 2008

Hospital Security Lax

Recently, a friend of mine visited someone at St. Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan. They walked through the revolving door of an auxiliary patient building, clearly passing by a sign which stated that all visitors must obtain a visitor's pass from the front desk which was several yards from the door. After going through the door, they turned towards the elevator bank. The person at the front desk was chatting with another worker and did not stop them at all. After the person arrived at the patient's floor, they proceeded into the patient wing. Another sign, posted at a sliding door before the rooms and next to a nurses' station, stated that all visitors must check-in with the nurses' station. The visitor passed through the doors and proceeded directly into their friend's room without being questioned by the nurses at the station. When they left the hospital through the same lobby, they witnessed other visitors coming in who were also not stopped by the front desk and/or security.

Clearly, this is an extremely dangerous situation. If we cannot even secure our hospitals, a place for the sick, how can we say that we are safer after spending billions of dollars shoring up our airports? We maybe preventing terrorists from hijacking another plane, but if our hospitals can even be compromised by regular criminals, there could be a tremendous loss of life and if terrorists get a hold of a health treatment facility, one less place for the ill to get treated.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Ravitch: Lower Fare Hike with Tolls, Taxes

Richard Ravitch was announced earlier this year to be the chairman of a committee that would investigate and propose plans to help the New York City MTA get out of its debt and back to better financial standing in both the short and long terms. He was appointed by Governor David Patterson mainly due to his prior appointment in the 1970's to head a similar committee to do the same thing. Back then, the MTA suffered from a lack of investment, bringing unreliable service, deteriorating stations and trains, and along with these, crime. However, his recommendations then helped bring the MTA back to a "State of Good Repair."

This Thursday (today), he presented his findings which were supposed to "spread the burden" amongst the working, middle, and upper classes. In addition, it would affect every commuter in the region that worked or lived in New York City. His proposals included an 8% fare hike for next year, compared to the MTA Board's proposed 25% hike; tolls on all of the currently free East & Harlem River crossings (~$1 billion); a commuter tax (~$1.5 billion) while establishing a Capital Finance Authority and other recommendations. He stated that these proposals "came as a whole," and were not separate deals. The Governor, Mayor Bloomberg, and the MTA lauded the plan.

However, the politicians were at their usual game of whining and stupidity. Moments after the press conference ended, people such as Rep. Anthony Weiner blasted the plan by stating that it was "the same old answer" and that "Ravitch is basically an MTA insider." He also said that the plan was not available online but after a reporter pointed out that it was, he played the class card by saying that it was unfair that the general public could not get access to it. Yet when he was questioned on what proposals he had in mind to save the MTA, he declined to comment. Makes me wish I had not voted for him this past election.

This plan will surely face skepticism, as it already has, although my hope is that with the Straphangers Campaign and some politicians on board will ultimately force politicians to realize: an underfunded mass transit system is a dead one. After all, there is a reason why the city's subway and buses are called the "lifeblood of the city."

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Minority Report: Now (Nearly) in Stores

I'm not talking about the awesome 2002 movie which starred Tom Cruise, although it does involve the technology featured in it. I'm referring to the display where Cruise used hand gestures in the air (after fitting on a specially-made glove) that would enable him to interact with the computer. Turning his fist right would fast-forward a video, making a rectangle with his two hands would select a certain video frame...etc. All along, we have been trapped by the mouse/keyboard and have never been truly able to be able to express what we want on the computer in a quick and intuitive way.

However, in the past two years, Perceptive Pixel, a company led by Jeff Han, has been developing technology that would enable users to forgo the mouse and typical keyboard and instead use your hands to interact with the super sized upright display. Of course, this still requires you to physically touch the display, but is definitely a step up from the current computing interface. The multi-touch technology that it relies is already on the market today, primarily by Microsoft's Surface, Apple's iPhone/iPod Touch/MacBook trackpads, and as of recently, T-Mobile/Google's G1 phone.

This past January, the first of his displays was showcased by CNN during the caucuses and primaries in the U.S. Presidential Election. Dubbed by CNN as "The Magic Wall," its usefulness and popularity has since spread to the other major news networks, including FOX and ABC. As materials get cheaper and demand increases, these multi-touch displays will no doubt be seen in more high-profile locations.

Speaking of CNN, this was not the first time they took the lead in demonstrating new technology. In January, CNN's Anderson Cooper held up a "Virtual Pie Chart" to display the results of the Iowa Caucuses. It was based on cameras that was aimed at the placard he held, and a a computer rendered a pie chart over it. On Election Day in November, CNN once again took the prize when they beamed a "hologram" of music artist and activist, who was in a studio in Chicago, to speak with Cooper, who was in New York City. This time, the set-up was much more elaborate: dozens of cameras surrounding in a circular fashion, which was also surrounded by a green screen. In CNN's NYC studios, computers added in a 2D image of him that was only viewable on a television screen, not visible in the actual studio.

Of course, all of these technologies are only a small peek into the future of the many applications that can be created to enhance our experience with computing that will make it as easy as interacting with real life. I await the day when I can view and organize my pictures or do research at home with the feeling that I truly have control over my actions.

A parody of the Magic Wall on Saturday Night Live:

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Google Experimental Search

Yesterday, I talked about how Google had yet another ingenious idea. Today, I venture into an addition of what made Google famous in the first place: web search.

Google's search results have always been a popularity contest. The more people click a certain website or the more links that point towards it, the higher it ranks amongst the results. However, Google members can now customize the links that appear by using a new feature, called "Google Experimental Search." Next to each web link, two buttons appear, one with an up arrow and one with an X. The Up arrow will move that search result to the top of the page every time you use the search term. The X removes the result. Comments may also be left. In addition, websites can be added to the search results. Google states that the changes are permanent, but this might be a bit annoying, especially if you want to see a removed website again.

Try it out now!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Google's Got the Sight

Dr. Google is only a few keystrokes and clicks away. Someone who is sick can 'diagnose' their sickness by checking their symptoms online. Of course, this is not the recommended way to treat oneself, as a certified physician is the best way to go. However, the innovative company Google has taken the search data and found an interesting correlation with the actual spread of the flu in the United States. A spike in searches of flu symptoms and related health information occurs shortly before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issues data on the flu. Called "Google Flu Trends," the project aims to give an early warning to "accelerate the response of doctors, hospitals, and public health officials." (NYT) The project is managed by Google's philanthropic arm,

>>>The New York Times-Google Uses Searches to Track Flu’s Spread