Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Two TED Videos For Your Perusal

I was checking TED for new videos today (a practice I try to make a weekly habit) and I came across David McCandless' presentation on data visualization. His combination of modern design elements and raw data allows for some very interesting (and beautiful) patterns to emerge from otherwise lifeless numbers. I'm sharing the link for his TED talk below. If the presentation peaks your interest you may want to check out his website as well. He has data sets on health supplements, politics, $$$, which flights are most likely to crash, military size and budget, wiki wars, international #1s... all kinds of stuff.


Also, Peter Molyneux (whose name i can spell without checking the web cause i have a streak of geek in me) has posted a video demoing Milo, the latest steps towards artificial intelligence. Milo is essentially an xbox 360 game that uses Microsoft Kinect hardware. Kinect, if you don't already know is an advanced motion, picture, and audio tracking device that allows the user to directly interact with software without the need for a controller or mouse. It's pretty cool tech, especially the cloud capabilities that Peter mentions. Milo (the software) will be connected via internet to a collection of data that is constantly updated (the cloud). This allows Milo (the software) to "learn" what things are called and how to speak and interact better with the audience (/consumer/participant/friend?). It's an interesting framework that will probably be a huge part of technology in the near future.


Monday, August 2, 2010

Tour de Switzerland

First of all, I apologize for taking so long to blog! We've all been absolutely exhausted from biking and walking around small towns all week. Wifi has been pretty hard to come by at hotels and hostels we've stayed at. Only one hotel included free wifi, otherwise it costs a few francs to use a shitty desktop for 30 min. Brian and I made a habit of searching for free wifi in the small towns and we were actually able to get some surf time on unsecured networks once the town had gone to bed. Now we're finished biking and back at the hostel in Geneva we started our trip from. You can get a login and password to connect to wifi for 5 francs (for 24 hours) so I have Internet access for a bit. :)

In regards to my last post:
Generally, the French were way nicer than the Germans. While we were biking the first couple days though the French speaking cantons (like states basically) other bikers would smile and say bonjour or salud as we rode past. It was very strange to see so many smiles and hear so many greetings from complete strangers. As we progressed on the route we entered the German speaking cantons and the people there didn't show as many outward signs of friendliness. We did, however, receive an unexpected and very warm reception from a German couple whose house we stopped in front of to replace the batteries in the gps. My dad spoke with them for a while with his broken German and they offered us coffee, water (they only drink bottled water in Switzerland for some reason, the tap water tastes fine...), and cookies. Overall the Swiss seem to be a nice bunch.

When it comes to clocks and timepieces the Swiss are extremely serious. Every town has at least one giant clock tower that chimes loudly to mark the hour (and sometimes half hour). The larger towns such as Berne, the Capitol of Switzerland, have multiple clock towers. Watches are for sale in just about every store and they're very nice but also very expensive. There are lots of Swiss army knives as well.

There are lots of gorgeous women here! Most if the population is very fit/healthy looking even though they all smoke like chimneys. There seems to be a fair amount of diversity in the country but everyone looks pretty decent. You have to try pretty hard to find anyone who is seriously overweight like so many Americans. There are some bread, beer, and cheese bellies on the older men in the countryside (festively plump).

Perhaps the reason the people here are skinnier has something to do with the cost of food. Basically any food you can think of is about 150% to 200% more expensive. The cheapest burgers at McDonalds are about 2.50chf which is like 2.25 or something American. A normal entree at a restaurant is 18 to 26chf! It's been about 70 to 80 bucks for the three of us to eat a meal at a restaurant. Instead of spending a grand on food we've been eating sandwiches from CoOps (huge grocery chain that's everywhere in Switzerland) and snacking on gummy bears and Ovomaltine chocolate cookies.

Interesting note bout Ovaltine/ Ovomaltine from wikipedia:

"Ovaltine was developed in Berne, Switzerland, where it is known by its original name, Ovomaltine (from ovum, Latin for "egg", and malt, originally its main ingredients). Soon after invention the Factory moved out to the village of Neuenegg a few kilometres west of Berne, where it is still produced.

Ovomaltine was exported to England in 1909; it was a misspelling in the trademark registration that led to the name being truncated to Ovaltine in English-speaking markets."

Anyway, the riding was great. There were only a few hills and we only missed one important turn that resulted in a few extra miles of backtracking one day (whoops). The countryside in Switzerland is absolutely phenomenal. There are fields of wheat, Sunflowers, corn, and other basic crops. The crops looked super healthy and when we biked next to a patch of chives it smelled like we were biking through the tastiest ranch dressing ever! Unfortunately they do not eat ranch in Switzerland and when we asked they didn't even know what it was.

The weather was really nice for the first few days of biking but then we got hit with a bout of rain for 2 days in a row. we had rain jackets, pants, and covers for our poniards but everything got pretty soaked, especially Brian, whose jacket seems to have lost most of it's waterproof coating. The rain came down so hard it reminded me of the rainforest in Costa Rica except much colder. We even got hailed on for a couple minutes one day and we had to stop riding for a bit and take shelter under some trees. When it's not raining it's really hot and humid which is great for biking but a little uncomfortable for walking around (we're from Washington remember...)

Tomorrow we're catching a plane to London and then a connecting flight to Vancouver B.C. where we'll have to spend the night. I'm hoping to visit the Yaletown Brewery where I got to go with some friends in a separate trip. They have great food and great beer! After that it's back to Sea-Tac and the end of our trip. It's been quite a ride...

If I think of anything I've forgotten to write about I'll post it later. Don't forget to keep your eyes out for pictures during the week after I return to the states!


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Rue Ferrier,Geneva,Switzerland

Giant Michael Jackson

This huge statue of Michael is right down by the lake in Geneva. I think it's part if a festival going on down there but it didn't really seem to have a purpose or be attached to a ride... Brian pointed out that the grey color was an interesting choice... lol!

Posted by ShoZu