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Andover, Massachusetts
Making tomorrow happen.
Interests: art, design, IT, science, poetry, business, future, innovation, management
Recent Activity
TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) has been an outstanding source of thought-provoking talks. This non-profit's "Ideas Worth Spreading" conference was the original source. Now, it has evolved to many conferences and projects, to the point where I was complaining to a friend the other day about the "commoditization of TED". Where once almost any talk could be relied on for its insights, one can now find a few that are clearly "recycled" with speakers who are less than leaders, or original thinkers, or provocateurs or futurists in their fields. But then TED redeemed itself (somewhat) by adding a "Best of the... Continue reading
Posted Jun 15, 2010 at In it what is in it
I like SolarBeat by WhiteVinylDesign -- a virtual music box of the planets. Each time an orbit is completed, a note is struck. The planets, of course, do not have circular orbits -- but it is in keeping with the spirit of Kepler's, "...the movements of the heavens are nothing except a certain everlasting polyphony". Johannes Kepler established that the planets move elliptically around the sun, and that they accelerate as they approach the sun. Seminal scientific stuff that prepared the way for Newton, but his deeper belief, seen in his statement above, was that of a connection between music... Continue reading
Posted May 30, 2010 at In it what is in it
...And the winners are: Pocket Pond, Soundrop and Use Your Handwriting. All are available free from iTunes. I have picked them more for their design brilliance than their usefulness. I should add that they all reside on my iPhone, but I can see that they would be equally compelling, if not more so, on an iPad with the much larger screen. Pocket Pond by John Moffett is a pond with rippling water and colorful fish. You can touch the water and scare the fish. You can add lotus blossoms and buzzing dragonflies. Beautiful to look it, entirely realistic, with just... Continue reading
Posted May 20, 2010 at In it what is in it
How different are the names for tea around the world? Not very, I was surprised to find. It turns out that just two Chinese pronunciations form the roots from which almost all the world has learned to name tea. From the Hokkien dialect came tê. The Afrikaans, Estonian and Finnish tee, the Hebrew, Norwegian and Icelandic te, the French thé, the Hungarian and British tea and the Malay teh are just a few of the 40 or so languages that borrowed from the Hokkien original. From the Cantonese and northern Mandarin dialect came cha. This has formed the basis for... Continue reading
Posted May 12, 2010 at In it what is in it
Finally, a new use for mathematics in the bedroom! (Modesty forbids talking of the older uses :)). Steven Strogratz in Group Think in the on-line Opinionator for the New York Times explains how Group Theory can be applied to the task of flipping a mattress. Why would you do it? For even wear, of course, and hence better sleep. You can flip horizontally or vertically, or rotate about an axis. These can be further sequenced into a plethora of choices. That is the where the splendid illustrations come in. They make logical why you should simply "spin in the spring... Continue reading
Posted May 4, 2010 at In it what is in it
AzJaf is now following S. Abbas Raza
Apr 28, 2010
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Apr 28, 2010
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Apr 26, 2010
MicroElectroMechanicalSystems [quite different from memes which we covered earlier]. MEMS rhymes with “hems” if you are into sewing or “Dems” if you are into abbreviated US politics. They are the new wave of highly miniaturized sensors and actuators that bring ‘intelligence’ to many of our portable devices by monitoring and reacting to physical conditions. They are built on silicon wafers, typically in the micrometer or millionth-of-a-meter size range. They often use photolithographic techniques just like integrated circuits. The Nintendo Wii video game system is one example of usage. It relies on MEMS to translate your hand motions to actions on... Continue reading
Posted Apr 25, 2010 at In it what is in it
First, I want you to see a YouTube video about a 2.5 year old's first encounter with an iPad. Is there any doubt that this device is meant for the newest generation? A colleague introduced me to Dr. Seuss's ABC on an iPad. Remarkable simplicity: a friendly interactive interface that would draw a child in -- and help her or him to learn to read. The app first came out for the iPhone, and here is the video. But the video really does not do justice to the iPad experience, with the larger screen and a more 'natural' feel than... Continue reading
Posted Apr 17, 2010 at In it what is in it
few days ago at the library I picked up the unusually named, "Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty". A great discovery! Turned out to be Tony Hoagland's fourth full-length poetry collection and a stunner. Clear, witty, insightful poems perfectly tuned to today's America -- and I had never even heard of the guy! My fault, since Tony Hoagland's work has appeared in the full range of magazines where clever poetry first appears: American Poetry Review, Poetry Magazine, Agni, Ploughshares and the like. The fellow is even the recipient of two fellowships and grants from the Guggenheim and the National... Continue reading
Posted Apr 14, 2010 at In it what is in it
hat shame is a powerful force for creating good behavior is known to every parent. All those "I am sorry"s accompanying returning the other kid's toys or not pulling the cat's tail come from a genuine desire to distance oneself from the bad (when they don't just come from a fear of punishment). Can this same emotion be harnessed to nudge adults into doing 'the right thing'? I recently came across three stories suggesting just how powerful this appeal to the better you can be -- via shame. The first story is the more profound one. This is from the... Continue reading
Posted Apr 8, 2010 at In it what is in it
onsider the following scenario at home. An iPad on the table in the den where you watch TV, another in the kitchen. American Idol is not really moving, so you pick up the iPad and take a look at the New York Times. Kid comes in and wants to know when the Celtics game will start. You hand her the iPad; she IMs her friend Sally for the answer (rather than check TV Guide on the iPad). Later, in the kitchen you pick up the iPad from the kitchen table to check your Gmail to see if Bob has sent... Continue reading
Posted Apr 5, 2010 at In it what is in it
Confused by the title or confused by how long to steep your tea? Visit for the answer. Hailing itself as "the simplest internet tea timer EVER" the site lets you enter in the time you want to steep your tea. You can enter in "30 seconds" or "3 minutes", or whatever, and the countdown begins. The screen warms up from pale to a dark and satisfyingly deep golden-red-brown color when you are greeted with, "Tea is done!". It is surprisingly pleasant, as countdown experiences go. You also get hints about the right temperature and, of course, steeping times for... Continue reading
Posted Apr 1, 2010 at In it what is in it
Subtract Garfield the cat from Garfield the comic strip and what do you get? An insightful look into the not-so-happening life of Jon Arbuckle, Garfield's young "owner". This is the brilliant mirror that Dan Walsh, the subtractor of Garfield, holds up to "everyman". These are existential jokes that bypass the intellect and go straight for the chuckle. With the lasagna-eating supremely self-centered cat gone, many of the panels are sparse, or repeats. But there is always an "aha!" in there. Even Jim Davis, Garfield's creator, is a fan! Dan Walsh is an IT Project manager from Dublin, Ireland. He started... Continue reading
Posted Mar 31, 2010 at In it what is in it
[Update: If you visit Lala now, you are greeted with the message, "Lala is shutting down. The Lala service will be shut down on May 31st, 2010". What happened? There are two speculations: 1) Apple bought Lala to shut it down, wiping out potential competition. 2) In June, Apple is going to announce iTunes Live, which will be a reincarnation of Lala branded for Apple. I favor the second explanation -- and June is not far away. Below you see my original post from March 27, 2010, toting Lala's merits.] If you haven't yet heard about Lala, the new place... Continue reading
Posted Mar 27, 2010 at In it what is in it
he Oxford English Dictionary succumbed in 2003 to officially including “meme” (rhyming with “dream”) as a word. The definition is, “An element of a culture that may be considered to be passed on by non-genetic means, esp. imitation”. A paradigm for understanding the internet, media, politics and more? You betcha. Urban Dictionary spells this out further. A meme is “an idea, belief or belief system, or pattern of behavior that spreads throughout a culture either vertically by cultural inheritance (as by parents to children) or horizontally by cultural acquisition (as by peers, information media, and entertainment media)”. UD then goes... Continue reading
Posted Mar 26, 2010 at In it what is in it
I first saw this Ray Jones box and was reminded of the gull-wing doors of the DeLorean. There is the same elegant defiance of gravity, the clean lines that surprise when first you see them. Exploring the Ray Jones Woodcrafts web site I discovered that this was just one of his "Very Special Boxes". The one you see here is Faithful Friend. There are more elaborate ones, like Inner Sanctum, a work in progress. There, three nested compartments swing open their doors at different angles like the unfolding of a musical movement in wood (go see it at his site... Continue reading
Posted Mar 23, 2010 at In it what is in it
Cisco's new CRS-3 is being called a game changer -- at least by Cisco. This Carrier Routing System, a 'core router', can pump data at three times the capacity of its predecessor, and 12 times what the competition (Juniper?) can offer. If 322 Terabits per second does not make you gasp, here is the translation of what this throughput speed means: The entire printed collection of the Library of Congress could be downloaded in 1 second. Ever man, woman and child in China could make a video call, simultaneously. The totality of every motion picture ever created could be streamed... Continue reading
Posted Mar 9, 2010 at In it what is in it
If "brevity is the soul of wit", as Shakespeare said, then Twitter with its 140 character limit is a perfect vehicle for it. I am sure, though, that Nick Douglas had quite a few haystacks to comb through to find these whimsical needles (there were 12 million Twitter users in 2009, heading towards 18 million in 2010). The result is "Twitter Wit: Brilliance in 140 Characters or Less". The book is a fun, fast read with many LOL moments. Here is a sampling of Tweets that I enjoyed: I stood there wondering, “Why is that Frisbee getting bigger?” Then it... Continue reading
Posted Mar 7, 2010 at In it what is in it
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Mar 4, 2010
Something cool from... Microsoft? Yes, while we have all been busy praising Apple and Google for innovation, here comes a creative new tool from Microsoft. "Songsmith generates musical accompaniment to match a singer’s voice. Just choose a musical style, sing into your PC’s microphone, and Songsmith will create backing music for you." It's a great concept; one that is appealing all the way from children to would-be musicians who want to experiment -- and you and me who are somewhere in between on the spectrum between the shower and American Idol. The software is well designed and extremely easy to... Continue reading
Posted Mar 4, 2010 at In it what is in it
By now we are all aware that Akio Toyoda, grandson of the founder, is the head and chief apologizer (and apologist) for the car company Toyota. But why Toyota and not Toyoda? BBC news has dug into this. The original Kanji name, shown on the left, can be read as both Toyota and Toyoda -- "toyo" meaning abundant, and "da" or "ta" meaning rice field. But that was just the start. A 1936 competition with 27,000 entries led to a formal change to Toyota. The fact that the name in the Katakana and Hiragana scripts require a lucky eight strokes... Continue reading
Posted Feb 28, 2010 at In it what is in it
I am not sure if it really qualifies as tea. The subtlety of the white tea leaves asymptotically approaches the imaginary -- but the high notes of the pomegranate are unmistakable and joyous. Tea or not, it is a marvelous refresher at any temperature. I favor it hot, and in a clear glass cup, where the passionate red can bleed out in all its glory. Trader Joe's Pomegranate White Tea bills itself as, "An antioxidant powerhouse". I know some who claim benefits ranging from armor against all winter ills through specific hopes that it can prevent H1N1. For myself, flavor... Continue reading
Posted Feb 25, 2010 at In it what is in it
Not since the Mock Turtle in Alice in Wonderland sang, “Beautiful Soup, so rich and green, Waiting in a hot tureen!” has the marketing of soup interested me as much as the story about Campbell’s recent redesign of its label. This is tampering with an icon. Lest we forget, this icon fetched $11,766,000 in 2006 – the highest price for one of Andy Warhol’s 26 Campbell’s Soup Series paintings. (You see it on the left here!). So what is the fuss about? It is about Campbell’s two-year 1,500 subject study to determine how consumers reacted to soup. Neuromarketing was used... Continue reading
Posted Feb 23, 2010 at In it what is in it