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San Francisco, USA

 

Post RDBMS database

The title of this precentation Data and Capital Markets in Money:Tech 2008 is not very obvious. It is actually an excellent presentation on the state-of-art of database design. Dr. Michael Stonebraker is behind a series of database innovation for several decades from INGRES and Postgres up to his current work on StreamBase Systems. In this talk he has criticized the traditional RDBMS as something woefully outdated. He has presented several new directions in database design that he think will soon upstage the current generation of RDBMS systems.

2009.09.28 [] - comments

 

Creativity, Change and Development

I've mentioned that I'm reading Richard Florida's Who's Your City. It explores the finding that innovation and creativity are often concentrated in certain region. The location a person lives has a great impact on one's life but people have often overlook this factor. I'm so interested in the topic that I have pick up some other related books as well as some book I've read in the past. I plan to do a summary on all of them shortly.

The book I'm going to cover are AnnaLee Saxenian's 1994 book Regional Advantage. It contrasts the remarkable different in culture and industrial system of US' two high tech center, Massachusetts' Route 128 region and California's Silicon Valley. Why does Route 128 falter and Silicon Valley flourish? Jane Jacobs has developed an insightful theory on the development of city regions in her 1985 book Cities and the Wealth of Nations. Her view of cities as the primary engine of economic activities echo Florida's finding. On a different note, Ng Chun Hung's book This time, This place - Sam Hui, is a nostalgic biography for the Hong Kong's superstar of the 70s and 80s. It catches my attention because it is a portrait of a golden age of creativity in Hong Kong's entertainment industry. I see a parallel in the rise of Sam Hui to stardom to the rise of Apple out of the work of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.

The common theme of these books is an exposition on creativity, change and development. How does development happens? What kind of conditions foster creativity and change? Why does innovation happens in some places and not in others?

2009.09.23 [] - comments

 

How Alan Turing Finally Got a Posthumous Apology

You may have aware of the media buzz around the British government has made an posthumous apology to the mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing, who despite of his contribution in World War II, was dishonored by the conviction of being gay in 1952. The government's apology is perceived as fair an uncontroversial, given Turing's monumental contribution to computer science and that gay is not longer considered a crime today.

Even more interesting is the back-story. It turned out the petition to request for an apology is spearheaded by just one ordinary citizen, John Graham-Cumming! In this blog post, John described how he has used UK's direct democracy channel to mount an Internet campaign, which resulted in and an official apology from the British government preceded by a person phone call from Prime Minister Gordon Brown himself.

John Graham-Cumming initiated and led the successful petition drive to procure an apology to Alan Turing from the UK government. John is the author of The Geek Atlas, CTO of a stealth-mode start-up, and a longtime programmer who has a doctorate in computer security.

2009.09.22 comments

 

California Dreaming

I'm reading Richard Florida's 2008 book "Who's Your City". In this book he asserts that the location where one lives has significant impact on every aspect of one's life. Therefore one should give it major consideration and choose it consciously.

I am only half way into the book. But I can't wait to voice my thought. I have already made the move to San Francisco and I am very satisfied with my choice. So I am not considering moving any time soon. However the book has inspired me to retrace my steps and to reflect on my decision.

I grew up in Hong Kong, earned my graduate degree and started my first job there. It has not occurred to me that I will be going anywhere. I don't have the resources to move, or so I thought. United States is a distant and foreign country. It feels, shall I say, a bit formidable. San Francisco is a place I vaguely associate with Golden Gate Bridge, cable car and earthquake. I knew no one there. So how do I ended up here?

My connection with the city starts with the wonder of the Internet. At that time, access to the Internet was a privilege available mainly to university students only. Few people outside of the computer science department are even aware of it. We put this coveted resources into good use with activities such as chatting online and spending hours plowing through the social network of that time, the Usenet newsgroup.

One of the newsgroup I visited is about bicycles. I learned about a group ride event happening in San Francisco. They would amass a lot of cyclists. Then they use their number to take over downtown streets, deliberately block off traffic intersections and causing traffic disruption at busy commute hour. This event, now famously known as the Critical Mass, continues to this day and has spread around the world. I learned about their riding strategy. I learned about their justification to their unlawful behavior. I was sitting in a computer room in the university lab half way around the globe. I was fascinated about what a small number of cyclists was doing in San Francisco. You bet there are some other people in London, in Paris, in Buenos Aires, or in Beijing are also paying attention to this.

The cyclists who started this probably have not imagined it will have a global impact. They have a nutty idea. They acted on it. They talked about it online. As a result they have exerted influence around the world. These people are very ordinary citizens without a lot of resources. Yet they can make an influence on par with Hollywood star or big corporate marketing campaign. Even to this day when everyone is suppose to have Internet access, I can still trace a disproportionate amount of new idea online originating from people around the San Francisco Bay Area. Richard Florida has it right. As far as creative idea goes, the world is not created equal.

I made my first visit to the United States in 1995 on a business trip. I used the opportunity to make a side trip to San Francisco. I have a pleasant time touring many tourists attractions. I have awed by the splendid of natural beauty in Yosemite. One thing not planned is that I ran into an event on the street. I took a picture of two queered man posed below.

1995 Gay Parade

This event is of course the annual Gay Pride Parade. If you have lived in San Francisco or other large city for some period of time, you may find this sight so common that you stop paying attention to it. But in 1995, this was quite a sight for me. While I held no judgment on homosexuality, it was still a eccentric idea to celebrate it openly. For this two men in drag to pose in front of a tourist definitely leave an impression on me.

Since I'm not gay, for a long time I'm not able to articulate why am I impressed. As I learned more about creativity and innovation and the culture that nurture it, it begins to make sense to me. Homosexuality breaks social rule. Rule breaking and a culture tolerant to rule breaking is an important ingredient to innovation. New ideas arise out of creative destruction.

One year latter my friend, who was working in the area, suggest to me to apply for jobs here. He graciously offered me a couch to stay. I was young. I have already moved to another city for what I've considered a temporary assignment. So I have little attachment to anything. The time was ripe for my transpacific migration.

2009.09.14 [] - comments

 

past articles »

 

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SF Gate

 

Bay Area News (7 Jan 2012)

 

City Insider (11 Feb 2012)

 

Crime Scene (13 Feb 2012)

 

C.W Newius Column (10 Jan 2012)

 

C.W. Nevius Blog (11 Feb 2012)

 

Education News (10 Jan 2012)

 

KALW (11 Feb 2012)

 

Matier and Ross Blog (11 Feb 2012)

 

California man cited for flying drone over airport, impeding firefighters (16 Oct 2017)

 

Court to rule on forcing tech firms to provide data held abroad (16 Oct 2017)

 

Fed’s Yellen says the economy remains in good health (16 Oct 2017)

 

After the smoke clears: Wine Country economy expected to rebound (15 Oct 2017)

 

Updated: Where fire victims can apply for tax relief and FEMA grants and loans (14 Oct 2017)

 

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey promises tougher stance on abusive tweets (14 Oct 2017)

more »

 


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