Saturday, December 31, 2005

holiday season and its grief

snow-convered sign at the onsen in Tochigi prefecture (栃木県)

Good times bad times. Without expectations there will be very little disappointment. But somehow the end of year always manages a bit more than typical sorrows. When broken down in terms of spacetime, a year is an almost random span of time that can be disregarded as nothing more than what it is, a collection of days. But it's human nature to reflect on all the things done in the year.

I miss my family and wanted to be with someone. I've had my big love in the past. It's hard to tell if it was my biggest love ever or there will be a bigger one. Heart gets broken and yes it is going to grow back bigger than it was before. But some parts will never be. Years gone by, just how long it takes?

With her on Christmas it only made it lonelier than otherwise. Physically there was this warm body but is that how far it extends? Can a warm body be enough? I have acomplished a small feat in repressing being with other people, in other words, I have been through the most solitary one year of my entire life, by choice. I don't know what the next year is going to be. But I think I will go with the flow.

See you in 2006!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Alone in the Wilderness

taken from
Documentary tells the story of Dick Proenneke who, in the late 1960s, built his own cabin in the wilderness at the base of the Aleutian Peninsula, in what is now Lake Clark National Park. Using color footage he shot himself, Proenneke traces how he came to this remote area, selected a homestead site and built his log cabin completely by himself. The documentary covers his first year in-country, showing his day-to-day activities and the passing of the seasons as he sought to scratch out a living alone in the wilderness.
taken from
"Alone in the Wilderness" is the story of Dick Proenneke. To live in a pristine land unchanged by man... to roam a wilderness through which few other humans have passed... to choose an idyllic site, cut trees and build a log cabin... to be a self-sufficient craftsman, making what is needed from materials available... to be not at odds with the world, but content with one's own thoughts and company... Thousands have had such dreams, but Dick Proenneke lived them. He found a place, built a cabin, and stayed to become part of the country. This video "Alone in the Wilderness" is a simple account of the day-to-day explorations and activities he carried out alone, and the constant chain of nature's events that kept him company.

There is no way I can compare my curent lifestyle to what Dick started in his 50's for some 30 years up until 1998, but that must be what it's like to search for an answer. Being away from all humans for so long, what courage and determination! People like Dick Proenneke and Ellen MacArthur inspire me. The farther away from civilization, the truer the view.

torrent link for "Alone in the Wilderness": MVGroup
about Ellen MacArthur: MacArthur sails into record books

season greetings

I'm not a skeptic but have always wondered about Rudolph. He went from being made fun of, called names and an outcast to mr. popularity in no time. Was it because Santa asked him to guide the sleigh? How much of a flip-flop can those other reindeer be? So this is Christmas, no flying reindeer, no Santa, only an overused simple phrase,

Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


This warms my heart. A 10-year-old student is totally in love with me.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

one more day

Just one more day I will have to decide whether I want to renew my contract for one more year or call it quits. Well actually the current one lasts til next March. So lots to think about. To stay or to go?

Friday, December 09, 2005

Solar Maximum when the sun's poles switch, which results in strong solar flares and CMEs (coronal mass ejections). The effect on earth can be devastating. It can destroy billions of dollars worth of satellites hence the core of modern information infrastructures.

Scientists became aware that the sun went through cycles and changes by observing sunspots, the darker, relatively cooler areas of the sun. The number of sunspots can be an indication of the degree of solar activity. The average number of visible sunspots varies over time, increasing and decreasing on a regular cycle of between 9.5 to 11 years, on average about 10.8 years. An amateur astronomer, Heinrich Schwabe, was the first to note this cycle in 1843. The part of the cycle with low sunspot activity is referred to as "solar minimum," the portion with high activity is known as "solar maximum." The year 2000, it is believed, will be the solar maximum for the current solar cycle. source
It last happened in the year 2001.

The Earth's magnetic field prtects us from these flares, well, to an extent.

Solarmax is an IMAX film capturing this very event. Click for its official website. The film itself falls short on explaining the phenomenon but is amazing on the screen. Combining footages from the SOHO project, NASA, and a series of time-lapse recording, it delievers a solarmaximum punch of visual pleasure for the sky enthusiasts.

When asked what they'll do for the holiday, a student of mine said that she is going to Choshi to see the first sunrise of the year. Choshi, highly accessible for me (a 30-min drive), is the first place where the sun rises in Japan. Quite a romantic little idea I say, frigid but probably worthy.

Choshi and its first sunrise of the year.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

like reading? (Google)

This concerns you and me. I hope you like reading.

What Lurks in Its Soul?

By David A. Vise

Sunday, November 13, 2005; Page B01

The soul of the Google machine is a passion for disruptive innovation.

Powered by brilliant engineers, mathematicians and technological visionaries, Google ferociously pushes the limits of everything it undertakes. The company's DNA emanates from its youthful founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who operate with "a healthy disregard for the impossible," as Page likes to say. Their goal: to organize all of the world's information and make it universally accessible, whatever the consequences.

Google's colorful childlike logo, its whimsical appeal and its lightning-fast search results have made it the darling of information-hungry Internet users. Google has accomplished something rare in the hard-charging, mouse-eat-mouse environment that defines the high-tech world -- it has made itself charming. We like Google. We giggle at the "Google doodles," the playful decorations on its logo that appear on holidays or other special occasions. We eagerly sample the new online toys that Google rolls out every few months.

But these friendly features belie Google's disdain for the status quo and its voracious appetite for aggressively pursuing initiatives to bring about radical change. Google is testing the boundaries in so many ways, and so purposefully, it's likely to wind up at the center of a variety of legal battles with landmark significance.

Consider the wide-ranging implications of the activities now underway at the Googleplex, the company's campuslike headquarters in California's Silicon Valley. Google is compiling a genetic and biological database using the vast power of its search engines; scanning millions of books without traditional regard for copyright laws; tracing online searches to individual Internet users and storing them indefinitely; demanding cell phone numbers in exchange for free e-mail accounts (known as Gmail) as it begins to build the first global cell phone directory; saving Gmails forever on its own servers, making them a tempting target for law enforcement abuse; inserting ads for the first time in e-mails; making hundreds of thousands of cheap personal computers to serve as cogs in powerful global networks.

Google has also created a new kind of work environment. It serves three free meals a day to its employees (known as Googlers) so that they can remain on-site and spend more time working. It provides them with free on-site medical and dental care and haircuts, as well as washers and dryers. It charters buses with wireless Web access between San Francisco and Silicon Valley so that employees can toil en route to the office. To encourage innovation, it gives employees one day a week -- known as 20 percent time -- to work on anything that interests them.

To eliminate the distinction between work and play -- and keep the Googlers happily at the Googleplex -- they have volleyball, foosball, puzzles, games, rollerblading, colorful kitchens stocked with free drinks and snacks, bowls of M&Ms, lava lamps, vibrating massage chairs and a culture encouraging Googlers to bring their dogs to work. (No cats allowed.) The perks also include an on-site masseuse, and extravagant touch-pad-controlled toilets with six levels of heat for the seat and automated washing, drying and flushing without the need for toilet paper.

Meanwhile, the Googlers spend countless hours tweaking Google's hardware and software to reliably deliver search results in a fraction of a second. Few Google users realize, however, that every search ends up as a part of Google's huge database, where the company collects data on you, based on the searches you conduct and the Web sites you visit through Google. The company maintains that it does this to serve you better, and deliver ads and search results more closely targeted to your interests. But the fact remains: Google knows a lot more about you than you know about Google.

If these were the actions of some obscure company, maybe none of this would matter much. But these are the practices of an enterprise whose search engine is so ubiquitous it has become synonymous with the Internet itself for millions of computer users. And if the Google Guys have their way, their presence will only grow. Brin and Page see Google (its motto: "Don't Be Evil") as a populist force for good that empowers individuals to find information fast about anything and everything.

Part of Google's success has to do with the network of more than 100,000 cheap personal computers it has built and deployed in its own data centers around the world. Google constantly adds new computers to its network, making it a prolific PC assembler and manufacturer in its own right. "We are like Dell," quipped Peter Norvig, Google's chief of search quality.

The highly specialized world of technology breaks down these days into companies that do either hardware or software. Google's tech wizards have figured out how to do both well. "They run the largest computer system in the world," said John Hennessy, a member of Google's board of directors, a computer scientist and president of Stanford University. "I don't think there is even anything close."

Google doesn't need all that computer power to help us search for the best Italian restaurant in Northern Virginia. It has grander plans. The company is quietly working with maverick biologist Craig Venter and others on groundbreaking genetic and biological research. Google's immense capacity and turbo-charged search technology, it turns out, appears to be an ideal match for the large amount of data contained in the human genome. Venter and others say that the search engine has the ability to deal with so many variables at once that its use could lead to the discovery of new medicines or cures for diseases. Sergey Brin says searching all of the world's information includes examining the genetic makeup of our own bodies, and he foresees a day when each of us will be able to learn more about our own predisposition for various illnesses, allergies and other important biological predictors by comparing our personal genetic code with the human genome, a process known as "Googling Your Genes."

"This is the ultimate intersection of technology and health that will empower millions of individuals," Venter said. "Helping people understand their own genetic code and statistical code is something that should be broadly available through a service like Google within a decade."

Brin's partner has nurtured a different ambition. For years, Larry Page dreamed of tearing down the walls of libraries, and eliminating the barriers of geography, by making millions of books searchable by anybody in the world with an Internet connection. After Google began scanning thousands of library books to make them searchable online, book publishers and authors cried foul, filing lawsuits claiming copyright infringement.

Many companies would have reached an amicable settlement. Not Google. Undaunted, Google fired back, saying copyright laws were meant to serve the public interest and didn't apply in the digital realm of search. Google's altruistic tone masked its savvy, hard-nosed business strategy -- more books online means more searches, more ads and more profits. Google recently began displaying some of these books online (, and resumed scanning the contents of books from the collections of Harvard, Stanford, the University of Michigan, the New York Public Library and Oxford. But legal experts predict that the company's disruptive innovation will undoubtedly show up on the Supreme Court's docket one day.

From Madison Avenue to Microsoft, Google's rapid-fire innovation and growing power pose a threat of one kind or another. Its ad-driven financial success has propelled its stock market value to $110 billion, more than the combined value of Disney, Ford, General Motors, and the media companies that own the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. Its simplified method of having advertisers sign up online, through a self-service option, threatens ad agencies and media buyers who traditionally have played that role. Its penchant for continuously releasing new products and services in beta, or test form, before they are perfected, has sent Microsoft reeling. Chairman Bill Gates recently warned employees in an internal memo of the challenges posed by such "disruptive" change.

Microsoft also worries that Google is raiding the ranks of its best employees. That was threatening enough when Google operated exclusively in Silicon Valley. But it grew worse when Google opened an outpost in the suburbs of Seattle, just down the road from Microsoft headquarters, and aggressively started poaching. Microsoft finally sued Google for its hiring of Kai-Fu Lee, a senior technologist who once headed Microsoft's Chinese operations. Lee is now recruiting in Asia for Google, despite a court order upholding aspects of a non-compete clause that Lee signed while at Microsoft.

Google's success is neither accidental nor ephemeral. Brin and Page -- the sons of college professors who introduced them to computing when they were toddlers -- met in 1995 at Stanford, where they were both Ph.D candidates in computer science and technology. They became inseparable and set out to do things their own way. Professors laughed at Page when he said one day that he was going to download the Internet so he could improve upon the primitive early search engines.

Seven years ago, Google didn't exist in any form beyond a glimmer in the eyes of Brin and Page. Then in the fall of 1998, they took leaves of absence from Stanford, and moved their hardware into the garage and several rooms of a house in nearby Menlo Park. Armed primarily with the belief that they could build a better search engine, they have created a company unlike any other.

With Brin and Page setting the tone, Google's distinctive DNA makes it an employer of choice for the world's smartest technologists because they feel empowered to change the world. And despite its growing head count of more than 4,000 employees worldwide, Google maintains the pace of innovation in ways contrary to other corporations by continuing to work in small teams of three to five, no matter how big the undertaking. Once Google went public and could no longer lure new engineers with the promise of lucrative stock options, Brin invented large multi-million-dollar stock awards for the small teams that come up with the most innovative ideas.

A good example is Google's latest deal -- a far-reaching, complex partnership with NASA, unlike any agreement between a private firm and the space agency, to share data and resources and employees and identify ways to create new products and conduct searches together in space. Although NASA is a public entity, many of the details of the partnership remain hidden from public view.

Despite all that has been achieved, Google remains in its infancy. Brin likes to compare the firm to a child who has completed first grade. He and Page gaze into a glittering globe in the Googleplex that shows billions of Google searches streaming in from around the world, and notice the areas that are dark. These are the places that have no Internet access.

Quietly, they have been buying up the dark fiber necessary to build GoogleNet, and provide wireless Web access for free to millions or billions of computer userspotentially disruptive to phone and cable companies that now dominate the high-speed Internet field. Their reasoning is straightforward: If more people globally have Internet access, then more people will use Google. The more books and other information that they can translate into any language through an automated, math-based process they are developing now, the more compelling the Google experience will be for everyone, and the more wealth the company will have to invest in their vision.

Supremely confident, the biggest risk that Brin, Page and Google face is that they will be unable to avoid the arrogance that typically accompanies extraordinary success. founder Jeff Bezos jokes that Brin and Page are so sure of themselves, they wouldn't hesitate to argue with a divine presence.

But the fact remains that they are human beings, and inevitably, both they and Google will make mistakes. Unless any of these prove lethal, however, Google -- through its relentless focus on disruptive innovation -- appears likely to wreak havoc on established enterprises and principles for many years to come.

I know there are more than enough articles about Google but this one sums it up quite well in terms of its dawn, ongoing struggles, succsses, ambitions, as well as likelihood of the future, ours.

source: Washington Post

Monday, December 05, 2005

Chie Ayado

One of my students lends me an album by a fairly well known Japanese jazz singer, Chie Ayado. Here is my attempt to write a review.

album reviewed:
"Best", 2002
1. Over The Rainbow
2. Oleo
3. Tennessee Waltz
4. Route 66
5. Yozora No Mukou
6. Spinning Wheel
7. Every Breath You Take
8. Moon River
9. Leaving On A Jet Plane
10. Everybody Everywhere - band version
11. Woman Of Ireland ~MNa Na h-EIREANN
12. Get Into My Life - solo version
13. Slow Dancer
14. Low Rider
15. Get Back
16. You Are So Beautiful

She has a very deep, clear, and strong voice. One can hardly believe the voice comes from a relatively small Asian woman. But I had the chance to see a live performace by another Japanese jazz singer in New York, who also has a voice that might be categorized as a spinto, in other words a lyric soprano or tenor. Recently, Ayado has been gaining ground in Japan.

While I enjoy her resourceful voice, the way she uses her vocal vibration is overdone. That really really gets on my nerves. She does a number of cover songs, which is not new in Jazz. But there could have been better selections.

Some songs recommended, but there are better jazz singers out there, perhaps plenty. You probably find this review somewhat biased, and it is. I was told repeatedly she's great. However since I put on the first track of the CD I got disappointed, sorry you Ayado's fans out there. That first track doesn't belong there.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

land o' quakes

Nothing short of spectacular here, although not to be proud of by any means. Eight sizable earthquakes within a span of 30 hours, smallest one being a 4.1. Look at that 6.5!

Normally the shocks of the frequency of such begin to wear off as I've been in the land o'quakes for a while now but this one takes the cake for me. They were fairly spread out and isolated sequence of four occurrences, starting from way South, to East, back to right-off mainland South, then way South again.

source: USGS

Friday, December 02, 2005

need for knowledge

Remembering when I was a kid I could not understand why in the world some adults would get up butt crack of dawn just to reach for a newspaper, or turn on TV news. Now it hits me that I read so much news and so many articles, it ought to be the equivalence of two papers a day.

In an effort to clean up some junk in my bookmark, I found these links of interests. Here are just science topics. I fail to get excited when it comes to politics.

Meet the man who will save the internet
Machines are catching up to human intelligence
Japan's 5 TV Stations to Start Webcast With Dentsu
Records we'd rather not be setting
Unto us the Machine is born
Possible miniature solar system discovered
Molecule gives passionate lovers just one year
The Science of Meditation
18 Tricks to Teach Your Body
Saturn's moon 'a primitive Earth'
The New History of Black Holes: 'Co-evolution' Dramatically Alters Dark Reputation

The many faces of the nearest star


Launched ten years ago this week, SOHO (the SOlar and Heliospheric Observatory) still enjoys an uninterrupted view of the Sun. Twelve sungazing instruments on board the spacecraft have explored the Sun's internal structure, the extensive solar atmosphere and solar wind, and discovered over 1,000 comets from a remarkable orbit around a point about 1.5 million kilometers directly sunward of planet Earth itself. At that location, known as a Lagrange point, the gravitational influence of the Earth and Sun are equal. With scientific instrument teams distributed around the world, the SOHO operations center is located at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Mission operations are planned through March of 2007 to allow the study of a complete 11-year solar cycle. Contributions from SOHO's instruments are represented in the colorful montage image. Happy tenth anniversary SOHO!

Credit: SOHO Consortium, ESA, NASA
Image Montage: Steele Hill (GSFC)