archive for February, 2005

Google Maps

Google just went live with Google Maps. My first impression is: Wow! The interface is really smooth. Just select the map, and click – to zoom out and + to zoom in. Drag the map around to look at different places. This is actually easier to use than a road atlas.

Here are some things you can do with it:
Map an address – Just type in as much of the address as you have, and click search. For example, here’s the Disneyland’s address: 1313 S. Harbor Blvd, Anaheim, CA.

Get directions – Type in your starting address, the word “to”, and your destination address, and you’ll get a map from here to their. For example, my neighborhood to Disneyland: Calabasas, CA to 1313 S. Harbor Blvd, Anaheim

Search for businesses – Type in what you’re looking for, the word “in”, and the location you want to search. For pet stores in my area, I could use pet store in Calabasas, CA.

So, what’s wrong with it? Not much. I’d be happy to use it as it is. It would be cool if there were options to turn different layers off and on. I’d like to be able to put multiple stops on the directions search. Their “print” feature could use some more work; when I tried it, it didn’t show my path on the map. It would also be nice to be able to print close up maps of the turns. On the other hand, I really like how they don’t clutter the page with ads like other map sites. I’m sure Google will add ads eventually, but I’m sure they won’t go crazy with them.

Update: The Slashdot crowd also suggest Map24. I’ve only spent a few minutes playing with it, but I must say… it looks very interesting. The interface is pretty clean, and dynamic like Google’s. Unlike Google, they are international which would be good if you live somewhere other than the US, or if you’re planning a trip outside the US. Considering Google’s past efforts to be the word’s search engine, I think they’ll be adding maps of other regions eventually.

Image Puzzle

I found this Image Puzzle on waxy. I just finished it (with 2 hints). Two hints for you: some of the puzzles only work in IE, watch out for red herrings! You may need to use an image editing tool on some of the puzzles. I like Photoshop.

MSN RSS Search

Microsoft has officially released their new search engine, MSN Search. I still prefer Google for search results, but MSN does have an interesting new feature. You can get search results via RSS. This should make it a lot easier to build applications that query their search engine. Google has a nice set of APIs and sample code, but nothing as easy as this. It’ll be interesting to see how Google responds.

The Apprentice: Martha Stewart

I’ve been saying for a while now that The Apprentice should change the CEO every season, or every other season to keep things interesting. Well, now it looks like they’re going with the same idea. The news is reporting that Martha Stewart will be the CEO in the future. Hopefully they don’t let her run for five seasons like they are doing with Trump. Other CEOs I’d like to see: Jeff Bezos, Carly Fiorina, Dean Kamen, Oprah Winfrey, and a few others. Of course, you can see I’m a little more interested in tech companies, but I’m sure there are equally interesting personalities in other industries.

Congratulations Mom

My mom just accepted a new job after 18 years at here current office. There have always been issues at work, but it seems lately they’ve gotten really bad. Several of her friends from work have moved on, and it’s uncertain if the office will still be around after an upcoming road widening. I think she decided that it’s finally time to work elsewhere.

The new dentist she’ll be working for sounds really progressive and professional. I’m sure it’ll work out well. Congratulations Mom!

About: Sleepless

I’m not sure how to categorize this post. It’s not fiction itself, but it is about my fiction. I’ve been posting a short story called Sleepless right here on my blog (that link takes you to single page version). In this post, I’d like to talk about where the idea came from, and how it came to be.

The first version of the story came to mind early in the morning on Dec. 18, 2004. In a notes file, I wrote:

A group of people have brains that work slightly different than ours. I got the idea from a quote by John Nash. When asked if he hears voices he said “I was a long way into mental illness before I heard any voices. Ultimately I realized I am generating these voices in my own mind: this is dreaming, this is not communication. This is coming from an internal source, not from the cosmos…” (source). That got me thinking about schizophrenia, and why humans are susceptible to it. Is there some evolutionary advantage to at least some of the symptoms? What about dreams? Why do we dream at all? Why don’t we dream while we’re awake? Could their be an advantage to dreaming while you’re awake?

As you can see, I wanted to write it about a group of people. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to do that. Later I realized that I could write it from the first person and post it as a series of blog entries.

Mixing reality and fiction in my blog was a lot of fun for me, but I’m not so sure that my readers enjoyed it. I got one email from someone who wanted to know more about my experiments, apparently he didn’t noticed that it was fiction. I also had a couple of comments stating the obvious, that the post was fiction. It’s a little like an audience member standing up in the middle of a play and saying “Don’t worry everybody. This is all fake. Romero didn’t actually die.” I guess not everyone knows to not open the curtain.

Now for the science in the science fiction: I actually did a little research on sleep before writing anything. I think that as far as the technology goes, we really are likely to have drugs that keep you from sleeping in the near future. Not only is there a huge financial incentive to do it, it’s something that the government has been working on for soldiers in the field. I’ve also discovered that it’s something that comes naturally to one man. Caffeine really does counteract the effects of sleep deprivation. For those interested, you can learn even more here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. You’ll notice that some of those links go to pages that were created after I started my story. I get the feeling that sleep control is going to become a very active area of study.

As always, I’m interested in feedback. Either offline, in comments, or in email.

Two Weeks Without Sleep

It’s been 14 days without sleep, 5 days since my last dose, and I think I’m cured of this thing called sleep. When I started this little experiment, I doubed it would even work. Now I know that is does.

The product looks like it’s going forward. From what I hear, the administrators of the study are eager to start taking their own medication. They’ve convinced the suits to go ahead with the product launch. It’s going to need some more testing to figure out how to evaluate who’s right for the pill and who’s not. I think that at the current rate though, you’ll soon be seeing comercials suggesting that you ask your doctor about a way to free yourself from the bonds of sleep. If you decide to do it, listen to the doctors, get all of the tests, and then prepare for a whole new life.

I have no idea how much the pharma spent developing this drug, and how many they failed at before they got it right, but it couldn’t have been more than a billion dollars or so judging by their hoover’s report. They could easily charge 10 million Americans $10,000 for the regime and make enough cash to put Microsoft to shame. Of course, once people know this can be done, it won’t be long until some compeditor comes out with a similar product, competition kicks in, and treatments are offered everywhere for just a couple hundred dollars. Ten years from now, only the Neo-Luddites will be forced to sleep.

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