Archive for the ‘personal’ Category

Video of Martin Friedmann

March 3, 2008

In an effort to remove physical clutter around my house between gigs, I bought a cool device: the Pinnacle Video Transfer unit. The device is cheap ($129), accessible (bought mine at Best Buy) and works exactly as advertised.

One of the things I ripped was my old VHS copy of the memorial that Ali put together for Martin’s memorial. When I eulogized him, I said – “To those who knew him, no explanation is necessary… To those who didn’t, no explanation is possible…”

Well even if you didn’t now him, this video gives a taste:

More about Martin here… He’d have loved Google.

Advertisements

Mansur’s passing

October 21, 2007



Rashi’s father Mansur, the silver Weimaraner

Today Rashi’s father Mansur left this world. It was a profound event, and I’m still collecting all of my feelings about it. He was a special dog, a special being. He traveled the world and touched so many people. I’m so glad that Rashi got to have Mansur close by for the first two years of her life. She always went ballistic when he was around, kissing him to death. He was very patient, very tolerant of her…

Mansur, yours was a life well lived. We will miss you, and I’m glad a piece of you lives in our Rashi.

Thanks for the Birthday Wishes

May 9, 2007

Due to facebook and plaxo, a lot of people seemed to know it was my birthday yesterday and sent their good wishes. Thanks!

I had a truly incredible day. Krista and I spent a couple days in Big Sur at the Ventana Inn. It was so peaceful, and relaxing. It’s not “posh” or ostentatious, but also not too rustic or primitive. It was just the right balance, subtle.

The weather was ideal. What seems to have been a heat spell for the Bay Area made it just perfect on the coast.

On the morning of my birthday, Krista had arranged for massages at the Esalen Institute. I’d heard of Esalen for 25 years, since reading about it in the Whole Earth Catalog in my midwestern suburb’s public library. (BTW, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to whatever freak kept that library stocked with counter-culture handbooks during my teenage years…) I didn’t know Esalen was quasi-accessible to the public (with advance reservations.)

The setting was sublime. The bath house there is set up on a cliff… The massages take place in an open air setting overlooking the stunning coastline. A gentle breeze blows through and the sound of the waves lulls you into a sublime state. Finally when you are done, you soak in the sulphur baths… that flow from a natural hot spring. While there, we watched three whales frolic up the coastline. It was absolutely stunning.

As we were pulling away, Krista summed it up – “It’s actually hard to believe that such a place exists.”

It was a very happy birthday!

Saved by the bark…

April 23, 2007

Last night at about 11:30pm, I’m sitting on the couch next to Rashi, who is curled up in a ball sleeping… I’m getting ready to pick up Krista from SFO… Outta nowhere we hear someone run up our front steps and knock on the door… and try the handle.

Rashi goes nuts, barking like crazy… Though she’s just fifty pounds, she sounds ferocious when provoked like this… I head to the door and scream,

“Who is it?” already sensing trouble as we don’t get many Sunday night, 11:30pm visitors.

“It’s (garbled)…”

“Who?!”…

“It’s (garbled)…”, he says.

I run around to the bay window to try to get a visual, and at that point I see a cop car with the spotlight swinging from side to side on a search… I stand in the bay window, wave my arms and mouth and pantomime, “He’s here!”. Plus, Rashi is going ballistic and you could hear her a mile away. The cruiser stops, two cops get out… and for the next half hour proceed to arrest the dude in front of my house.

Rashi is going crazy. I’ve never seen her like this. She sounds like a wolf with bloodlust, and she’s pacing back and forth… She’s so amped up that i have to take her with me to pick up Krista.

I talk to a cop that explains that the dude just got out of prison, and he’s been attempting breakins in the neighborhood. They’ll take it from there… Thanks to the Emeryville cops, who actually went 50 ft. outside of their jurisdiction to deal with this BTW.

I’m still committed to this neighborhood. This is the first serious incident that touched us personally since Krista’s car was stolen three years ago. Things are definitely getting better, and hopefully this was just random bad luck.

Kurt Vonnegut… gone.

April 11, 2007

Moments ago I learned Kurt Vonnegut passed.

I don’t read much fiction, but I loved Vonnegut. I even picked up his more recent stuff… Like Dylan, even when he was not at his peak, he was still worthwhile.

Sometime around 1986 he did a lecture at the University of Michigan. I somehow weaseled my way into the post-event reception. There was a receiving line to shake Vonnegut’s hand. What was outta whack was how formal everyone was… the entire affair was stiff and from another century. But I knew that Vonnegut was insane. So I got in the receiving line, and when I got to him I took his hand and dramatically dropped to one knee… Looked him in the eye, and said something like “You’re ideas have moved me profoundly…” It was silly, adolescent and absurd… but somehow true to what I was feeling. Without missing a beat he squeezed my hand and said, “I’m so glad.” We had a moment.

Bye bye sir. Your peephole has closed.

Five Things You Don’t Know About Me

January 7, 2007

So Ken tagged me a while ago, but I’ve been chilling. Now I’m back in the saddle and ready to blog into 07. I’ll have more to say RSN (real soon now) about Yahoo. It’s actually been somewhat amusing and illuminating watching the media frenzy from my unique perspective.

Anyway, here are five things you probably didn’t know about me!

1. I know a lot about gardening. For the past 20 years, my family has owned Flower King, a small flower shop in Livonia Michigan (between Detroit and Ann Arbor.) Flower King opened when I was about 15, and my first job was doing demolition, painting, hammering, sweeping, etc. – literally helping to build the place. (My family has always rented out the florist component of the business, and run the outdoor/garden center.) Then (for subsequent summers up until I was about 23) I worked there… I got to know a lot about plants, running a business, and most importantly how to talk to people. The experience of working at Flower King helped make me who I am… Things I love about it:

  • intense hours (6am-10pm)
  • short, intense season (100 days)
  • intense physical labor (loading / unloading the trucks)
  • entrepreneurship (no one to delegate to)
  • family business (forged new aspects to my relationships with parents, uncle, siblings)

2. I am 50% WASP. Most people assume I’m 100% Jewish (given my name and the way I look), but I’m actually 50% genetically. My mom’s family (Grandma Thelma Jo Jones and Grandpa James Burris) are from places in Michigan like here and here, and they drive pickup trucks and hunt, fish, work in auto plants, love Jesus and have names like Cotton, Woody, RJ, etc. My mom’s cousin (my second cousin) is Mark Farner, who was lead vocalist and guitarist for Grand Funk Railroad, the 70’s hard rock supergroup. We referred to him “Uncle Mark” (and due to his fame, his name came up a lot more than my other second cousins.) While this statement is oft-repeated and seldom true, I am in fact “one eighth Cherokee.” My great-grandfather Abe Jones was full-blooded, and was driven from Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears. (Abe was “Uncle Mark’s” grandfather, and also accounts for his Indian blood and tribal recognition.)

3. I have asthma. It was fairly intense as a child (I can remember being hospitalized twice and needing to get epinephrine shots and be placed in an oxygen tent.) It’s gotten milder and milder over the years, though it could still be triggered by a roomful of cats. I keep an over-the-counter inhaler around.

4. Like Sergey, I’m an ex-gymnast. In fact at one point my brother, sister and I held “Michigan State Champion” titles in our respective age groups and divisions. My career ended when I was doing a double back pike dismount off the horizontal bar and ended up doing 1.5 flips and cracking my head on the bar. Ten stitches and a concussion later I was seriously rethinking my career in gymnastics. I still have a nasty scar. If I’d hit my neck as opposed to my head it could have been a lot worse. Apart from the risk and danger, gymnastics was an incredible sport for my mind and body. Deep core strength, flexibility, focus… It taught me a lot, and I’ve been coasting physically for a very long time on the foundation it gave me.

5. While at MIT I drove a 1980 Honda Civic with a “Fred Flintstone” style hole in the driver’s side floorboard. I bought this car from a friend for $50. I spray-painted it flat black, and then had a friend do stencils on it. The damn thing ran and ran and ran… I ended up giving it to my artist friend William who drove it even more! I was in Cambridge recently, and the junkyard where I salvaged an alternator for this beast has been made into condominiums. It used to be right here.

Ok, now I am tagging Marc, Lucas, Edward, Dave, and Caterina. Guessing if some of these folks haven’t responded by now, they don’t want to play… but I’ll give them another push! It took me a couple tries!

Flickr as “Eyes of the World”

June 29, 2006


The Elephant’s guides
Originally uploaded by Phil Gyford.

Stewart has referred to Flickr as the “Eyes of the World”… This is a totally apropos vision, but also a not so veiled reference to Stewart’s hippie roots.

While I was a grad student, colleagues Ted Adelson and John Wang created something they called a plenoptic camera. The basic insight was to use a lens array, a flexibile piece of plastic that had dozens of micro-lenses etched into it, yielding an effect much like an insect’s compound eye. Each lens imaged the scence from a slightly different point of view. This camera was able to derive shape, i.e. depth, from analyzing the resultant image. Think stereo parallax but in 2 dimensions and with many more samples. Also, since the “baseline” of nearby lenses was so short there was no course “feature matching” needed.

That’s the insight as I recall it, and hopefully someone closer to the research can correct any errors I’ve made. I see that folks at Stanford have continued and extended the research.

In addition to the practical applications of this work (as demonstrated by the Stanford team the ability to change depth of field effects in a photograph after the fact), I remember hearing Ted Adelson talk about how they came up with the name “plenoptic” for the research. Plen from the latin plenus meaning “full”, and optic from the Greek optikos relating to vision or “eye”. The idea was that while a normal camera captured the scene only as rendered at one point in space-time, the plenoptic camera captured a “fuller” representation. (Actually if you think about it, space-time is completely packed with potential vantage points. While fuller than a normal camera, the “plenoptic camera” is still just imaging a few dozen points out of the innumerable possible ones!)

So what does this have to do with Flickr?

When I was visiting London recently, a colleague there told me a neat story. The “Sultan’s Elephant” visited the streets of downtown London and shut down traffic for days. A Yahoo took his kids to see it, and he tried in vain to get a picture of the kids in front of the elephant. Unfortunately,because of the crowds, he couldn’t get back far enough to get a decent perspective. From 10 feet away, it didn’t look like “The kids in front of the Sultan’s Elephant” but rather “The kids in front of some brown plywood.”

Bummed, he went to Flickr to upload and tag the photos. While doing so, he discovered that by happenstance another Flickr user had taken the perfect shot of his kids and the elephant. This person must have been another 20 feet back in the crowd. How cool is that?! I thought this was a nice “eyes of the world” (and plenoptic camera) story.

(I will try to contact the parties involved and link to the actual photos in question.)

Relating back to the previous post, I recall soon after Flickr joined Yahoo asking Heather if there was a way I could solicit more photos of Westbeth. (A building in NYC I’m fond of…) She said, “Sure! I can make that happen for you!” But Heather, being the community manager of Flickr, had the means to rally the troops toward any cause… But I said, “No. I’m not interested in how you would do it… I’m interested in how one would do it…” And she suggested finding a relevant group (in this case maybe this one) and just sending up a “Would someone go take a picture of Westbeth for me?” flare.

(By the way, I never did this. 15 months ago, there was a single photo of Westbeth. You can see I lamely called to the photographer herself “More pictures of Westbeth please!” Now, there are dozens of photos… including exactly the shots of the courtyard I wanted like this one and this one. I did my part and contributed a few…

Heather’s suggestion, leveraging the community to help “invoke” pictures is quite effective within Flickr. In fact, many of the group photo pools are calls to action to create “knowledge” on demand. In this respect, it’s a lot like Yahoo! Answers… but instead of “knowledge” being a textual response to an explicit query, “knowledge” now becomes pixels…


By the way, if anyone has a line on how to get a flexible lens array like the one referenced above, please let me know! Turns out these are hard to come by, unless I want to have them manufactured by the gross.

CNBC Asia Squawkbox

June 24, 2006

Just got back from Singapore for this, and did a 4m piece on CNBC Asia’s Squawkbox. I don’t believe there’s a public copy, but Yahoo’s can find the clip on backyard.

CNBC

Took everything I had to pull myself together past the jetlag and mental fogginess for the 4m piece.

Hope to post more about the trip, specifically what I discovered during those sleepness nights channel surfing – i.e. my new favorite TV show “I Shouldn’t be Alive” (Discovery Channel) and other faves from the National Geographic Channel.

My New Job!

June 23, 2006

I’ve been very eager to publicly announce this. There were some pretty good excuses as to why this has taken me more than a month. I’ve been wicked busy, and moreover there were some org changes I wanted to implement before announcing. Drumroll…

I’ve got a new job at Yahoo!: VP of Product Strategy, reporting to CPO Ash Patel.

This is something that I couldn’t be happier about. In addition to the groups I’ve helped build and will be bringing over from Search, I’ve also inherited a number of very exciting, impactful groups. The Product Strategy Group now includes:

  • Yahoo! Developer Network – led by Chad Dickerson
  • Technology Development Group – led by Caterina Fake
  • Advanced Products Group – led by Scott Gatz
  • Yahoo Research Berkeley – led by Ellen Salisbury
  • Product Practices Group – led by Irene Au
  • Y! Agile Process Group – led by Gabby Benefield
  • I’m going to take some time and try to do a blog post about each of these groups. Each one is exciting and represents huge opportunity to effect change within or outside of the company.

    I don’t wanna get mushy here, but this is an appropriate time for me to pause and offer my thanks to those who have made my experience at Yahoo to date so rewarding. Specifically those in Search who encouraged me and helped me “invent” this role and group: Jeff Weiner, Eckart Walther, Qi Lu, Andrew Braccia, and Tim Cadogan. A special thanks to Prabhakar Raghavan, Marc Davis, Joe Siino and Usama Fayyad for our collaboration around Yahoo Research Berkeley. Thanks to Toni Schneider and Jeffrey McManus for the incredible work getting YDN off the ground. Thanks to Ash Patel for recognizing that what we incubated in Search could, and should, graduate to Yahoo!, Inc. Quick shout outs to Toby, Jerry, Dan, Sue, Terry, Zod, Kwok, Kathryn, Jennifer, Tim R, Ken N, Joff, Tomi, Ken H, Raymie, Stewart, Thrall, Ramesh, Karnes, Ethan, Volk, Kaigene, Hyrkin, Mandelbrot, etc., etc., etc. Apologies to the many, many I’ve neglected…

    You’ll note that I’ve deliberately not mentioned any of my team, because they’re gonna get special love in upcoming posts.

    I’m actually speaking at Supernova tomorrow and am going to share a bit about “Innovation at Yahoo!” There is something very special happening at Yahoo! of late, and it honestly feels like we’re just getting started. I’m privileged to be a part of it. Can’t wait to share more with you all.

    Back from London

    June 8, 2006

    I was just in London for the Content 2.0 conference. I really enjoyed it, especially Marc Canter’s opening keynote. (Went out to dinner with Marc too.) Managed to grab dinner the previous night with the TechDev UK gang (Tom, Simon and Paul), and check in on some fantastic work they’ve been doing. Can’t wait until it sees the light of day. I’m very happy to say that Paul Hammond has jumped right in and is contributing hugely after only 5 weeks. Very cool.

    In Heathrow on the way back home, bumped into a distant acquaintance, movie director Alfonso Cuaron. Alfonso directed Y Tu Mama Tambien and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. He is a mad genius to be sure. While we were waiting to board the plane his wife called and said he’d forgotten his wallet at home – again. He had literally $20 in his pocket (and was flying to the States for a few days.) He said it happens all the time, and no he didn’t need to borrow any money as they’ll take care of him on the other side.