Tuesday, March 21, 2006

I started a new blog: http://shenderovich.wordpress.com

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Searching for elections information, I ran into an interesting set of statistics from the California Secretary of State. It turns out that during the recall elections and the governor race, Bay Area voted predominantly against Schwarzenegger. According to elections results, San Francisco had a 19.0% vote in favor of the new governor. More or less, the further you move away from SF County (into Alameda, San Mateo, Marin, etc.), the more votes in favor of Arnold have been placed.

Friday, January 30, 2004

There was another prolonged gap in the blog. This one lasted for six-months, but during that time I traveled quite a bit, including a month-long trip to Moscow, wrote a novel in verse (in Russian, of course), was hospitalized with torn ligaments, but generally led a rather somnambulistic lifestyle.

Lackluster months gave me an opportunity to gather some thoughts on technology, social and political aspects of life in Russia and the US, and to come up with a few observations on other topics. One in particular fascinated me to the point of constant contemplation and almost an obsession with the subject. Ironically, and I will get to the irony of that a bit later, my thoughts were about the physiological limitations of man. This more or less became a predominant issue after spending a few weeks in a cast, when moving around an apartment was a chore and going downstairs on my own was completely out of the question. Yet not being able to move, for one reason or another, is only an extreme example of limitations.

Humans have spent their whole existence coping with physiological limitations. From the dream of flight, to the search and construction of shelters, to the invention of contraceptives, providing a safe way for the mind to triumph over physiology, humans have excelled at surrounding themselves with technology that will allow their bodies to be suppressed and minds active.

Yet, our fascination with the mind, with the intellect, problem-solving abilities does not even come close to our fascination with the body. Even if Einstein was called the person of the century a few years ago, and the society is touting the benefits of education, our fascination remains solid not with the physicists or mathematicians, but with musicians, athletes, and, of course, actors, namely with those whose talents stem from physiology in addition to mental discipline and character. Speaking of the latter, we remember their faces, adore their bodies, marvel at the ability to transform themselves and undergo such drastic physiological changes that the faces and bodies we know stray beyond recognition. Recently, I heard an interview with Adrian Brody, the Oscar-winning actor that had to lose over thirty pounds from his already thin frame for the Polansky’s “Pianist”. He talked about the emotional aspects of starvation, pointing out that in the modern world, at least in the Western world, we rarely go through this experience. For him, the transformation into a survivor of the Warsaw ghetto was a feat of theatrical talent, but yet, he could only achieve this feat by adjusting his physiology closer to the prototype he portrayed.

The body triumphs over the mind. From the Christian perspective, lives of men are devoted to overcoming this triumph. From the perspective of the natural world, humans have exceeded their capacity to cope with the desires brought on by the mind, but suppressed by their physiology. Houellebecq touched upon this in “Atomised”. “Matrix” and “Terminator” displayed the romantic ideals – the fight against inevitability.

The irony of these thoughts lies in the fact that they are still produced on the physiological level (the level of neurons, axons and synapses). We can talk about inevitability, physiological limitations, we can invest in nano- and biotechnology to overcome them, yet it seems that ultimately we want to rid ourselves of physiology at which we marvel.

Monday, July 14, 2003

During the week of non-blogging I had several interesting discussions about neo-conservatives. One was prompted by a friend’s blurb on the changing perception of United States in Russia. According to a recent returnee from St. Pete, in a social setting, Russians are ultimately predicting a quick demise of US political and economic domination, not triggered by Russia or the EU, but in some respect promoted by the inefficiency of US domestic policy. Russians perceive US foreign policy as the direct consequence of the financial woes on the home front, and, obviously, offer no immediate solutions.

Yet, current foreign policy was shaped not during the downturn, but in the top of the boom in the late nineties. See here. In light of this, Europeans feel that US is trying to dominate the global political scene; Russians, being a bit more terminal in their assessment, are waiting for these efforts to crumble under their own weight. I suppose that’s a relic from the Soviet-days bipolar world.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

I was in Mexico over the weekend, which practically precluded me from blogging. Of course, there were Internet cafes and other types of access points (e.g. hotel rooms), but the cost seemed to be prohibitive in the extreme. Even with typing 60-70 words per minute, the cost of making a blog entry would have run into dollar figures. Which, of course, is counterintuitive from the perspective of a blogger.

Overall, the fact that blogging from Mexico would have cost me more than blogging from the US, brings out a new dimension to the "information wants to be free" mantra. While more often applied to information consumption, from the perspective of blogging, it reverses to content generation. Obviously, there should be no direct cost associated with providing information that wants to be consumed by others. Quite to the contrary, there should be some remuneration for delivering an information service.

The argument against this can be, of course, that there are always indirect costs associated with content production (and higher costs associated with information distribution), but what is interesting here is the perception of the costs as the context changes. That said, blogging from the US, at least by someone sitting on a DSL connection at $39/month, is perceived to be "free", while the cost for blogging from an Internet cafe in Mexico, at $4-5/hour, can hardly be seen as marginal.

I suppose it's all back to contextual pricing (the cost of espresso on Piazza San Marco vs. the nearest Starbucks).

Friday, June 27, 2003

Quantum Art's™ work with local governments always provides for interesting contradictions. I was reminded today of a county IT director that was tasked by the CIO to produce a 25-year technology spending and implementation plan. As hilarious as this may sound, there is some reason to it: the same IT director told Quantum Art that he needs to budget hardware purchases a year in advance (i.e. if he wants a Pentium 4, he can only get it next June). Council budget approvals require government IT directors to plan much further ahead then their corporate counterparts. Given such experiences, they should be better at budgeting IT spending. What is interesting to consider is whether such constraints would also make them better at predicting technology evolution.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

According to CNN, today's study released by the IRS indicates that "wealthiest 400 taxpayers in the United States accounted for 1.1 percent of U.S. adjusted gross income in 2000." The numbers are striking, not only because of the significant growth in the gross income share of the richest 0.1%, but more so in light of the stagnation in the bottom 10%. The statistics, of course, are reflective of the boom in the nineties, and seem doubly curious as the nineties were dominated by Democrats both in the Executive and Legislative branches.
I was in a meeting today, with a gentleman from Netli, discussing video-blogging (vlogging), and how Netli could aid in the strive towards creating a technologically workable video-publishing network that would be similar in its essence and uptake potential as text blogging.

A few interesting ideas and thoughts on vlogging immediately came out:
  • Vlogs are not an alternative to blogging, they are an alternative to television.

  • Vlogs, unlike blogs may not focus on bi-directional communication (this seems to be the key differentiator). While blogging, in many respects, treats all network participant as equals, vlogging would create a fine line between publishers of information and its consumers.

  • Linking is essential to blogging, frame-in-frame (picture-in-picture) and audio commentary overlays will make or break a vlog.
The point that has not been resolved, however, is the level of expertise that a potential vlogger may need. Producing text, such as this post, is easy enough – for years we have been conditioned to learn how to spill our guts on paper, how to type, how to use a word processor… Only a few have mastered the intricacies of video editing software. So the paradox, and perhaps the reason for the second conclusion above, is in the fact that (i) poor video (“talking heads” in search of their pundit voices) will not draw enough attention, and (ii) there is only a very finite number of people able to produce quality video content.
So after several attempts, a few posts about the beauty of blogging and the precariousness of the same, I have decided to wholeheartedly embrace the medium. This is the first post, and this time it will not be the last.