The New Yorker Tech Issue Nov. 25, 2013

It is a pretty decent read. I read most of the tech features within a couple of days of time.

The cover reminds me of Noah’s current favorite cartoon series Octonauts.
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1. Rocket Man: The Youtube weapons inspector, by Patrick Radden Keefe
I find this to be the most interesting piece of the entire issue. How an armchair amateur, Eliot Higgins from Leicester, London, broke so many Syria news than most professionals (from journalists to spy agencies). All he does was scanning uploaded youtube footage by Syrian locals, and using Google and Facebook to find answers to all the weapons show up in those footage.

It is a mind blowing story. What is to come for professional journalism as well as spy masters? should those work be outsourced to passionate amateurs like Higgins? Look at what Higgins has accomplished, it seemed unnatural not to tab into this source of talent who work mostly for free!

2. Auto Correct – Google’s self-driving car, by Burkhard Bilger
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As amazing as the technology seemed, the stalemate with Auto industry seems the most important fact to note. What will happen to all these fascinating technology development? iPod end up being amazing because Jobs manipulated record industry in signing the deals with Apple. Who will be the Jobs for self-driving cars?

3. Naked Launch: the digital economy’s new corporatism. by Nathan Heller
This article reads more like a silicon valley bibliography. and a good list of books to avoid. Otherwise the theme of the article is rather mundane: despite how the New technology companies paint themselves, at the end of the day “Company doesn’t hire company, people hire people”, and all people are greedy.

4. The Love App: Virtual keepsakes and real romance in Seoul, by Lauren Collins
Seoul described in the opening paragraphs sounds so fascinating. As if lifted out of sci-fi novels. But it is real! wow!

Captain Phillips

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A really good movie. After i came home, i found out the director was the same who made the Bourne trilogy. No wonder!

It kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. Amazing actor from Hanks as well as the supporting actor, excellent editing, and impeccable story telling. A very satisfying experience.

I’ve spent the evening reading up on the Somali Pirate situation wikipage (turned out Indian Navy has been capturing, defeating the most Somali Pirate hijacking in Gulf of Aden), interviews with director Greengrass, Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi–a first time actor and a Somali-American, and interview with the real Richard Phillips. I even started readying the real Richard Phillips Memoir “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea”.

All the scenes of the movie was shot on real ships, Greengrass ensured they were of the same model/type of ship as in the real story, from the Cargo ship to the Navy destroyer. They shot the movie off the coast of Malta. The four main pirates were all Somali-American who now live in Minneapolis, where there is a large Somali community. And the four were friends in real life when they auditioned. The other Somalis in the film were recruited from UK.

Greengrass also kept the US cargo ship crew actors separate from the pirate actors until they shot the real scene of their encounter. Tom Hanks mentioned their first meet during shooting, when the four got onboard of the ship and shoot their way to the bridge where “Captain Phillips” were at the time, “these were the four skinniest and scariest people i’ve ever met in my life.” Hanks said in the interview on Fresh Air. Hanks and the other two crew on scene also didn’t know what they were shouting at each other in Somalian.

Tropical Vacations

During my traveling days, I’ve always been partial to mountains and cities. Tropical vacations has been very few.  Looking back, I found out the only two tropical vacations I had both happened to be during Thanksgiving week. Both time i went with Gui, who loves the tropics and a veteran of all the tropical paradise: Tahiti, Bali, Bahamas, British Virgin Island, yucatan peninsula, Costa Rica, and many trips to Hawaii since she moved to San Francisco.

Nov. 2001 Cabo San Lucas, Sea of Cortez

I went with my diving partner Jenny, Gui and Matthew. It was right after Jenny and I got our PADI diving certificates from West Valley college. Jenny and I got off work twice a week to attend the classes (usually one lecture, one pool session) for 10 weeks. Final certification happened in the cold water of Monterey bay with amazing kelp forest. Two full day dives of four dives total if i remember correctly. I also failed the swimming test at the beginning of the quarter and had to retake it (and passed, whew!) prior to our ocean dive certification tests.  I forgot how many laps it was required to pass the tests, but it was a longer distance than I could manage initially.

Diving in tropical water is so different from diving in Monterey. I’m very glad we did the trip. I remember seeing my first octopus in flight while diving (thanks to Jenny who noticed him, and i did the incorrect touristy thing by poking it with my flashlight, unknowingly forced it to put up a show for us). It was an amazing sight, not only the octopus changes color as it skid past rocks, ocean vegetation; but its skin also changes texture to match its background. All these happened within the blink of an eye. Then it was gone.

I finished reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban on the beach in between our diving trips.

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I loved the open air lobby of our hotel, where sparrows flew in and out as we were waiting to check in. The air felt warm and comfortable on the skin in the evening, and hot and blazing during the day.

Nov. 2003, Phuket, Thailand

Looking at the photos, i remembered in addition to Gui and Matthew, Gui’s college friend Sara also joined us. I think she was working for a non-profit in Thailand then and used to send Gui funny stories of her work there. I don’t remember if I dived in Phuket.

I remembered snorkel off the beach in front of the hotel during the day, as i was heading back to the beach, i saw a local boy swimming into the ocean holding a long pole with some fixture of ropes and hooks.  I then joined Matthew sitting under a local food stand on the beach. A while later, the local boy with the pole came back with a freshly caught octopus in hand. Turned out Matthew ordered an octopus salad. And we witnessed the entire process of harvesting and cooking in one shot. Matthew said it was the freshest octopus salad he has ever tasted.
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I also remembered the last day of the trip when Gui, Matthew and Sara continued on to a diving expedition on the other side of Phuket, I checked out my hotel, still have a few hours to kill before heading to the airport. I walked into the airy patio of Le Meridian on the beach which was next to our hotel but with a much better view and higher price tag, and sat in one of many comfy chairs and read my book on that trip, Enigma by Robert Harris. It was such a pleasant morning, with beautiful view of the Andaman sea, the breeze, the tropical fragrant in the air, always smiling wait staff, leisure sail boat on the sea, and a satisfied read. It must be the low season, the entire morning I almost had the entire large and beautiful patio to myself. Only one other woman customer came in and sat a few seat from me about mid-morning.

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In between these two trips, there was also the three weeks Ecuador trip Sara and I ended up going April of 2002. It was also in a tropical setting since Ecuador is right on the equator, and our trip also included one week cruise among the very special Galapagos, but it felt less a tropical trip, more an adventure.

I never quite shook my unease with diving. My sister happened to be an advanced diver, she learned diving in Tahiti while attending a summary school session with Cal’s ocean-biology(or something like that) department. My mom loves swimming more than anything else and she still swim laps three days a week now. I’m the black sheep in the family. The year 2000 was my year of adventure, after mastering skiing, got hooked on rock climbing, and skydived once and loved it. I went for the scuba certification.

But i was always nervous before each dive (even though i really haven’t done that much). Later when i found out my sister also had her own fear about diving each time before she went in the water all suited up. I suddenly felt relieved and decided not to force myself to dive. Snorkel was just as fun in the tropicals and so much more relaxed for me.

My best snorkel experience has to be during our cruise at Galapagos. I remember a penguin shooting past me like a missile and missing my face by a hair as i was entering the narrow entrance of a sunk crater; I remember swimming in the crystal clear water and watch a group of sharks “circling” a large group of fish right beneath me; I remember a sea lion swam up to me and floated itself upside down, stared at me with its huge pretty eyes, and then blew a series of bubble at my mask…

I’m about to visit Hawaii for the first time this Thanksgiving. Surprisingly, everything i read about Hawaii, especially the scenery, reminded me of Ecuador. People’s description of the drive to Hana match exactly what i remembered from our bus ride from Papallacta in the Andes to Pimpilala in the Amazon Jungle. The description of the volcanos reminded me of our mountain biking trip down the volcano Cotopaxi in Quito Valley. And the varied colored sand beaches reminded me of Galapagos.

If Hawaii is a smaller, tamer, more civilized version of Ecuador that’s only 5 -7 hours away from home, then I can see myself visiting it more often. I could also understand why people will equate Hawaii with Paradise.

The New Yorker Digest: San Francisco, Collapse of a Top NY Law Firm, The Guardian, Jack Dorsey

Another classic cover from Oct. 14, 2013 The New Yorker magazine.  Subtle and funny.

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Two interesting articles so far.

Bay Watched – San Francisco transforms the culture, again. by Nathan Heller

I’m taking a huge grain of salt with this article.  The tone of the article reminded me of the days prior to dotcom bubble burst. When things sound too outlandish to be true, it is probably not true. Many of the phenomenon described in the article has a lot more to do with how much money are over flowing at the moment. What happens when that overflow stops? A business model should be one that works through thick and thin, not extravagant life style of some individual during the best of times.

One message i like about the article is that more silicon valley millionaires care more about quality of life after they made it.  That is encouraging. Wish the country will become less workaholic, and more like Europe.

The later part of the article on the VC trend is pretty interesting.

The Collapse – How a top legal firm destroyed itself by James B. Stewart

A fantastic run of events that caused the collapse. I kept on wondering “what if”. I’m often of the opinion that the inevitable is inevitable. But in this particular case, i kept on feeling that a reversal of one particular bad decision could have turned things around. It didn’t have to end this way.

Two articles from outside the Money issue.

Freedom of Information – The newspaper that took on the N.S.A. -BY  (Oct. 7, 2013)

bluedogAn article about the editor of the Guardian newspaper, Alan Rusbridger.

Rusbridger, who is fifty-nine, has been its editor for eighteen years. He wears square, black-framed glasses and has a mop of dark hair that sprawls across his head and over his ears. He could pass for a librarian. “His physical appearance doesn’t tell you how tough he is,” Nick Davies, the investigative reporter whose byline dominated the Murdoch and WikiLeaks stories, said.

I’ve grown to respect The Guardian a great deal after their  coverage of News of the World scandal and Ping Fu the liar.  This article centered on their coverage of Snowden and their search for a viable feature of the newspaper in the ever more digital world.

Reading this article made me want to go out and subscribe the newspaper so to contribute something to a still great newspaper, which is such a rarity in today’s world (just subscribed their kindle’s edition!)

Two Hit Wonder – Jack Dorsey, of Twitter, is now making big money at Square—and is out to prove that he’s more than a lucky man. BY D. T. MAX (Oct. 21, 2013)

thehauntedhouseThe New Yorker is looking west more often nowadays. Maybe because silicon valley topics are become more trendy.  Some of the New Yorker’s profile are very good, such as the one on zuckerberg. But most the others are not so good. Comparing to the other more thoughtful writings, The New Yorker seems largely still stays in the fascinated stage with this little valley of ours. Fascinated but not understanding. As a result, most of these articles don’t really go beyond gossip.  Classy gossip told with more restraint. But still are just gossip.

Very well written gossip, though!

Dorsey loves cities and the way movement within them can be charted and broken down into millions of parts. A city is a system that is at once flexible and stable, searchable and random. He expressed a similar interest in ant communities and aspen trees. “I really like any colony-based structure, where you have a strong dependence on a network,” he said. “Aspen trees grow in groups. If one of them dies, they all suffer. I think humans have the same thing, though it’s not as much on the surface.” He likes to draw ferns. (In his twenties, he studied botanical illustration.) “They’re a single structure that tends to repeat itself,” he said. “They’re fractal.” Exotic as these enthusiasms are, they seem suspiciously apt for the creator of Twitter, a service defined by its “strong dependence on a network.” As a thinker, Dorsey seems at once earnest and improbably coherent.

The article ends with an interesting exclusive headline, that Dorsey is interested in becoming the mayor of New York City.

Certainly, if Square eventually follows Twitter and becomes a public company, Dorsey would have extraordinary resources to fund a campaign. He owns 23.4 million shares of Twitter stock; an initial public offering is upcoming, and his stake could be worth nearly half a billion dollars. In March, at a celebration of Twitter’s seventh anniversary, Dorsey asked Bloomberg if he had any suggestions for how to succeed him in his job. Stone recalls, “Bloomberg told him, ‘Become a billionaire!’ I was joking with him recently, and I said, ‘Well, you’ve checked that box off.’ ”

A Satire of SF & One of NYC

Someone in the name of Peter Shih wrote “10 Things I Hate About You – San Francisco Edition” on Aug. 14th, last Wednesday.  I learned of its existence the next day on Twitter, where it was causing lots of anguish and harsh words. Shih tried to soften the tone of his article by adding a clause claiming it is satire, and also removed some of the most offending clauses, these all happened on Thursday.

I told ZM about this incident over the weekend. Today ZM sent me a Chinese news article talking about Peter Shih! and the Chinese news article also indicated that Shih has removed his essay and apologized! wow!

Apparently the Shih Storm is all over town (literately) and all over the news.

So i went back to reread the screen capture of Shih’s original article.  To be honest, quite a few items he listed are very true, such as how bad SF’s public transit is, how monotonous SF is comparing to any real city.  I remember commenting to friends after watching Billy Elliot on 2000, that it was so depressing to be born into a mining town and all you are expected to do is to be a miner. My friend Jennie at the time laughed at me, “and how different do you think the silicon valley is?”

What surprised me was Shih liked NYC, while complained about the various shabby elements in SF, such as transvestites, homeless, and unsafe areas.  I asked ZM, who lived in NYC for nine years, isn’t NYC even more dirty and dangerous and has more weird people than SF? ZM said NYC is larger and more segregated(gentrified?). Just like Shih said, an uptown guy doesn’t have to mingle with the shabby elements if he chooses.  But in San Francisco, such a compact city, everything is jumbled together. People like Shih couldn’t live in a bubble even when he has lots of money.

Shih is also correct about San Francisco’s nightlife (or the lack of).

This whole incident reminded me of the famous monologue delivered by Edward Norton in “25th Hour”.  ZM and I watched that movie in a little theatre off Union Square in NYC. That satire monologue was even more extreme than Shih’s “hate -list”, it was about NYC.  And while we were in that NYC theater, that monologue earned a standing ovation from the crowd. Everyone was clapping, laughing and cheering.

When i told ZM about 25th hour, his first reaction was real life is very different from the movies.  I made him read the monologue and suggested, “could it be possible that New Yorkers are more secure than San Franciscans?”  ZM contemplated a bit and reluctantly agreed, “maybe. Maybe because New Yorkers are a much more diverse group. While San Franciscan are mostly of the same type.”

I thought ZM had an excellent point. Basically we are back to monotonousness vs. metropolitan.  San Francisco has a limited categories of residents, while New York City has many. Going down the list of Norton’s 25th Hour monologue, i could safely say none of the guys listed in Norton’s list are watching that movie in that theater, or very few.  In other words, Norton’s list didn’t make a left-wing liberal a target, who is probably the target audience of that movie.

But Shih’s attempt at satire was met with a much limited audience as well as resources. He didn’t have much choice at who to pick on.  And whatever he picked on happen to belong to the group of people who is reading his publication.

I happen to love both cities: San Francisco and New York City. I wish San Francisco will grow into a real city some day, with great public transportation, a functional public school system, and the diversity of New York City, while keeping our great weather, interesting architecture, and our nice parks. I wish San Franciscan will become more secure and tolerant of people with different opinions. Next time when someone deliver a Norton style monologue about San Francisco, we can have the confidence to call it a “love letter”, give it a standing ovation, instead of threatening to chase him out of town.

The New Yorker Digest 7/29/2013: Kayaktivist, Ask Ayn

I don’t usually read “Talk of Town” or “Shouts and Murmurs” sections and realized I’ve been missing out!

Some quite hilarious pieces in the latest New Yorker (7/29/2013) issues in the “Talk of Town” and “Shouts and Murmurs”.

Kayaktivist

A women kayaker who noticed the Manhattan ferries don’t follow a marine rule. i.e. They don’t sound their horns during maneuver around the ferry terminal.  Making it dangerous for kayakers like her.  So she started a e-mail campaign to the Coast Guard. Early June 2013, her effort paid off. To the surprise of many luxury waterfront residents every morning starting at 6am.  The horns are very loud. Now the residents started their own mail campaign to the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard has an easier time answering these residents protest, “Until the International Maritime Organization and the U.S. Congress change the rules, there is nothing I can do.”

Repeat Customer

A Tokyo resident finally passed the New York Bar exam after 17 tries starting from 2005. He wasn’t even planning on practicing law in New York.

Ask Ayn

Excerpt from an Ayn Rand newspaper column in “Parade”. True Ayn Rand style with a real life flavor such as freedom of taking drugs, why she loves “Charlie’s Angels”, her take on movies such as “Caddyshack” and “The Shining”.

 

The New Yorker Digest:Everest, Sniper, Silicon Valley, & An Manhattan Apartment

Spent the last day of the long weekend reading the most recent two issues of the New Yorkers. For the first time I can now read the magazine on my phone! Thank you Google Play for bringing in the New Yorker!

CV1_TNY_06_03_13Hall.indd1. THE MANIC MOUNTAIN
BY NICK PAUMGARTEN

An article originally intended to be the profile of Ueli Steck, one of the world’s premier alpanists–“The Swiss Machine” and his final epic climb on Everest. But it turned out to be more about the confrontation a month ago on Everest between Ueli and Nepalese Sherpas. The news and blogs i’ve heard about that story was one sided blaming the climbers. This article served as testimony of the story from the Climber’s view. Sobering.

The article is behind a subscription wall.  Failing that, you could listen to this interview of the author Nick Paumgarten and Peter Hessler on climbing culture and a summary of the article by Paumgarten, by Sasha Weiss.

and here is a video of Ueli climbing Eiger!

2. IN THE CROSSHAIRS–Chris Kyle, a decorated sniper, tried to help a troubled veteran. The result was tragic. BY NICHOLAS SCHMIDLE

How some people could use this story to make a case for pro-gun and against gun-control is beyond me!

ana-juan-the-new-yorker-cover-may-27-20133. Change the World By George Packer

Throughout most of Silicon Valley’s history, its executives have displayed a libertarian instinct to stay as far from politics and government as possible. But the imperative to change the world has recently led some Silicon Valley leaders to imagine that the values and concepts behind their success can be uploaded to the public sphere.

It is mainly a story about how Zuckerberg turns political. Entertaining, but please take this article with a grain of salt. Some of the statements are overly sensationalized, which made me question the truthfulness of the remaining of the story.

4. Crowded House by Tad Friend

In the spring and summer of last year, people from Brazil, Norway, Spain, South Africa, Bangladesh, Japan, and even the Upper West Side pounced on a Craigslist ad for a twenty-five-hundred-square-foot Chelsea loft with two large bedrooms and two baths. The apartment’s owner and impresario was a photographer named Michael Tammaro who assured potential tenants that he’d get them membership in Soho House. Everyone wanted in. They couldn’t all rent the apartment, of course. Unless they could!

A hilarious read!

My favorite part of the story is how the Asian couple used sympathy to recover most of their money after learning the truth. And the advice the D. A. gave to a couple of the victims. “I”ve been in this job fifteen years, and I’ve heard everything — but I’ve never heard of the scammee locking the scammer out.” He went on, “I’m going to give you some advice – get out of the apartment. You’re two young people, starting out together, and you don’t want your lives to be about this terrible person.”