Khan Academy

My favorite project and talk from GEL 2010 was this one by Sal Khan. His amazing Khan Academy is what happens when you sit down and simply share comprehensive knowledge on every subject imaginable and make it freely accessible to as many people as possible.

Sal Khan at Gel 2010 from Gel Conference on Vimeo.

Facebook’s Privacy Whiteboard


Last year, when Facebook started going lax on their default privacy settings (in opposition to how they'd always defaulted settings) I had this idea. It's obvious why Facebook would push their userbase in that direction, because it would mean more public outfacing pages to sell internal and external advertising on. If you're running a giant private walled garden, you can only sell ads to other users — but when you open that page up to the world (and Google) you can sell ads to everyone.

So my thought upon seeing a major change in privacy at Facebook was there must be a whiteboard in a Facebook office somewhere listing all the changes necessary to their privacy settings in order to maximize revenue. I'd guess there are maybe 20 items on the list, and it seems every few months they pluck a couple off the list and make it live. Sure, they're also releasing other features to offset the bad publicity of further privacy changes, but this excellent blog post and infographic (one of which is shown above) demonstrate exactly how they've progressed on implementing their changes over time. I'd guess at this point, they're about 3/4 of the way through that list.

Now I'm just waiting until the day an engineer at Facebook is fed up enough to take a photo of the Privacy Nightmare Punchlist whiteboard and post it on the web for all to see. It has to exist, but I'd still like to see it.

Adventures in brain tumors: 90% good

Oh joy. Four more hours of blood testing, plus nausea!It's been a while since I've posted a health update, but I've been going through tests every 3-4 weeks for the past six months and each time I'd tell myself I should make a post after the next set of results, but never ended up posting about it.

The long-story-short is that I'm happy to say I'm still recovering well. It appears that my tumor is still shrinking given the blood workup numbers and I have a MRI in early June to take another look at it to see where it stands. My testosterone finally bounced back into a normal range for the first time in any set of tests, which is another encouraging sign.

I've done several prolonged tests to see how my body produces human growth hormones and that's about the only thing not bouncing back. It appears that the reason I'm tired a lot and recovering from exercise slowly is that I'm still low on growth hormones and may start to take supplements for the rest of the year to see how my body reacts.

Aside from that, my endocrinologist started to discuss the plans for tailing off the half-dozen medications I'm taking over the next few years as I recover further. So in summary, pretty much all good news and I'll post about the results of the MRI next month when I get them.

GEL 2010 Conference trip to Dead Horse Bay

Walking along at low tide

The highlight of the GEL Conference was an amazing trip to Dead Horse Bay, which is on the outskirts of Brooklyn towards JFK airport. You can read about the place on wikipedia and here's a google map of the place.

Anthropologists Robin Nagle (her 2009 GEL talk was amazing) and Howard Warren took a group of about a dozen attendees on the journey, telling us the history of the place all along the way. At the turn of the last century, it was a place where literally dead horses were brought for processing into products (rendering, using their hides, etc). Later in 1953, when an expressway was being built through Brooklyn, they bulldozed straight through apartments and homes, dumping the refuse on Barren Island where Dead Horse Bay is located.

The trash from 1953 is still all around, as we happened to catch the beach at a low-tide revealing a quarter mile of coastline covered in old bottles and jars. It's pretty fascinating stuff and fun to think about how you'd interpret what life in 1953 was like given what was left behind. Of course, most all the fabric, paper, and plastics have deteriorated and gone, leaving behind mostly glass. If it was hundreds of years into the future, you'd think the people of 1953 Brooklyn sat around drinking soda all day, eating food that required loads of maple syrup, and spent most of their time bleaching things with Clorox (when they weren't applying nail polish or face cream). Those kinds of bottles compromised almost everything you see.

I put 17 shots on Flickr from the day here, check them out and if you get a chance, I can't recommend a trip to Dead Horse Bay enough. Two things though: there were loads of ticks in the trees and bushes above that dropped on top of us as we walked towards the bay, and please don't take things from the bay so others can enjoy it.

Crap I love: The Tiko portable iPhone/iPad holder

TikoLast fall, I bought a Tiko iPhone/iPod holder to prop up my iPhone while playing movies on planes, after hearing about it on Not Martha.

On my way out on the last trip, I decided to throw this barely-larger-than-a-business-card holder in my backpack in case I needed it.

After a cross country trip where I watched about five hours of video on my iPad, I’m happy to report that this designed-for-iPhone stand is barely heavy duty enough to work for holding an iPad on a airplane tray table.

Here’s a shot of it holding my iPad on a desk. Best ten bucks I ever spent.