Thursday, April 30, 2009

Google Flu Trends

Back in November 2008, rolled out Google Flu Trends, a model to help track flu activity in the United States. From the Google blog:

Our team found that certain aggregated search queries tend to be very common during flu season each year. We compared these aggregated queries against data provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and we found that there's a very close relationship between the frequency of these search queries and the number of people who are experiencing flu-like symptoms each week. As a result, if we tally each day's flu-related search queries, we can estimate how many people have a flu-like illness.

Despite the fact that this tool is 5 months old, it's been helpful to compare activity to hysteria. Possibly not the most rigorous methodology out there, but an interesting way to capture "on-the-ground" thinking. However, based on the current status of the swine flu, it's nice to visualize the difference between panic and events.


They have also just built an experimental model for Mexico as well.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Official White House Photostream

I've been trying to do work for the last 30 minutes, but have been completed enamored by the White House photostream on Flickr:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

H1N1 Google map mashup

Posted yesterday on Lifehacker, but here is a regularly updated Google map mashup that tracks confirmed, suspected, or negative cases and deaths of "swine flu." Helpful considering the hysteria that's been emerging on the internets and beyond.

View H1N1 Swine Flu in a larger map

Metric Lips

When I was in high school, I was the leader of the mallet percussion section in marching band (PS: our section totally rocked). However, there were only 3 of us, which was unfortunate, because I really, really wanted to perform this mallet quartet piece for Solo and Ensemble my senior year. Instead, here are some other high schoolers (Grandville) performing "Metric Lips," originally written by Béla Fleck and performed by The New Grass Revival.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Emory Douglas talk

We had a special presentation today in First Exposures with Emory Douglas, the minister of culture for the Black Panther Party from 1967 until Party's collapse in 1980.

Emory Douglas

He went through loads of his images and explained the events that inspired them. While I think the main point of the talk was for him to describe some of his artistic techniques, it turned out to be quite an awesome history lesson on the Black Panther Party. Mr. Douglas still seems quite passionate about the survival programs of the Party (he talked a lot about the free health clinics, clothing and food distribution, education, and the Free Breakfast for School Children Program).

He did, however, touch on some of the more political and violent aspects of the Party, which I think was inevitable given the nature of some of his images:

images via Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles exhibit, "Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas"

I think most of the students and mentors enjoyed the presentation, although some seemed a little fidgety at the end (including me; it *had* been about 90 minutes from start to finish). Quite a few students hung out to ask him questions afterwards, which was really great. He seemed to really enjoy speaking with them and sharing, and really listened to their stories about how maybe things hadn't changed that much in Oakland (which might be the most sobering thing in the end - that all the work and struggle that he and his friends went through may have resulted in very little transformation in that community).

Thursday, April 23, 2009

another dad update

We found out yesterday that my dad's cancer has spread to 4 out of 8 lymph nodes; his official staging is T3-N2-M0 (meaning that there was penetration of the tumor into the bowel wall, there were cancer cells in at least 4 surrounding lymph nodes, and no metastasis to other organs). That puts his stage grouping at Stage IIIC (colon cancer staging goes from 0-IV). Five-year survival rate for Stage III is 44%. He starts chemotherapy next week, with the treatment lasting about 6-8 weeks.

I will probably be traveling back and forth between Palo Alto and Las Vegas for the next few months for care-taking and mediation between my mom and dad (because an uncomfortable dad and an overly headstrong mom does not equal crazy delicious).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

in Vegas, post-surgery rehab

So, the reason that I haven't really been posting lately is because on Monday, my dad called me to say that he had been admitted to the hospital for a bowel obstruction. I kept checking with him by phone multiple times per day (quite a feat for a family who talks on the phone about 6 minutes every 2 weeks). We all thought that he had diverticulitis. However, on Thursday, he told me that because the treatment that they thought would work didn't (broad spectrum IV antibiotics), they were going to do surgery on Friday.

I talked to my co-workers and supervisors, and decided that I would leave for Vegas on Saturday and stay until this Thursday.

And this turned out to be a very good decision, because it turned out that what my dad had was colon cancer. It's the same thing that his dad died of when my dad was 12 years old. They removed a part of his colon, and gave him a temporary colostomy, which will be reversed in about 8 weeks. We're still waiting for the pathology results for the lymph nodes; if they are cancer-free, we can consider my dad "surgically cured" of cancer. If the lymph nodes show cancer cells, then my dad has to go through chemotherapy. I do not know anything about the staging of his cancer, which means I cannot look up more numbers and prognosis estimates for my mom (which is my instinct to do at this point).

There was a surreal moment in the hospital room when the MD told us that the biopsy results showed that the growth removed was cancerous. It seems strange to have thought of my dad as "being at risk for cancer" to "having cancer" - the transition seemed so instantaneous, that I had to catch my breath.

It is also weird to see my dad - who taught me how to play the saxophone, snap my fingers, and hook up two VCRs together to copy tapes - with an NG tube and IV lines and an ostomy pouch, in severe pain. It is weird to observe him so ecstatic to have popsicles approved as food (he hasn't eaten any solid food in about 11 days). And it is weird to watch his mind try to overcome his body's weakness so that he can come home.

Dad, post-op

Saturday, April 11, 2009

chartreuse Malene Birger justinas coat

How cute is this coat? It's one of those things that I can't help cycling back to, but am too chicken to get (based on style; I am DEFINITELY too chicken to get based on price!).

Malene Birger Chartreuse Justinas Coat
via Feather Report

Friday, April 10, 2009

Stanky Legg

I've never heard of this song or this dance before, but I think I'm in love.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Rock The Bells 2009 lineup

The 2009 Rock The Bells lineup was announced yesterday. Not sure if I will skip it again this year. While I always love seeing Common and Talib Kweli, I'm not as big of fan of Nas, and I haven't heard of lots of people lower down the lineup.

It would be great to see House of Pain, though. And the Roots are one of my favorite live bands. These things together may not be worth the $75-100 ticket price estimate.

Dave Eggers and his education dream

I'm trying to work through a huge backlog of TED talks, and had the chance to see Dave Egger's acceptance of the 2008 TED prize while collating packets for Monday.

I have a soft spot in my heart for Dave Eggers, not necessarily because of his writing (which I haven't read), but his genuine commitment to the written word, communities, and education. He founded 826 Valencia, which is a writing and tutoring center in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco. The storefront is a pirate store. Seriously - it's totally awesome. But what's even awesomer is the incredible effects that 826 has on the local community. The students involved in the program have put out some fantastic writing (which I actually have read), some of which has been published.

The reason I am familiar with Dave Eggers is because he wrote the foreward for the First Exposures book that was published in 2006. Even though he's writing literally about photography, he may as well be discussing arts in general. From his foreward:
A camera is a tool of power and control. The person behind the camera can shape their reality -- to make it more beautiful, more orderly, more sensical (or less so). For a teenager who might feel confused by their world, and even powerless against the things he or she doesn't like about their world, having the power to shape it, or even change it, through a camera's frame -- this is an important thing.

First Exposures is doing all this -- giving young people some control, an outlet, a filter. And the results speak for themselves...You'll see a city that might be different from the one you know, or these students might have finally captured, for the first time, the city you live in. All because they were given cameras and some guidance. When they're given the chance to shape and show you their world, the world becomes that much more their own. And the stronger they feel, the more confidence and a part of the creation of that world, the better off they are and we are.

His TED talk is inspiring to me, not just because he took the time from being a busy famous "local" writer, but because it is so obvious that he cares deeply about the transformative power of one-on-one mentorship, and giving students outlets for creative development. It's hopeful to think that those of us who work with young people - especially teenagers - may be doing something right (and I mean this in the original sense: I am full of hope).

Sunday, April 5, 2009

remakes and samples, part 1

In undergrad, I was that girl who would always correct people about who originally did what song. For example:

Girl: Ooh, I love that new Puffy song* with Faith Evans...what a great, original hook!
Me (gritted teeth): It was originally done by The Police.

(*"I'll Be Missing You," since the year was 1997 when this conversation occurred).

Anyways, usually I err on the side of the original in terms of preference. "Edge of Seventeen" by Stevie Nicks instead of "Bootylicious" by Destiny's Child. The Smiths' version of "How Soon Is Now?" as opposed to Tatu's. And damn you, Cold War Kids, for running Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" through the wringer; I can't unhear that ever again.

Some pairings, however, are equally appealing. The remake either offers something very different, but just as interesting, as the original, or the original is used in a really surprising way.

  1. "Got To Get You Into My Life" (The Beatles v. Earth, Wind, and Fire)

    My dad, being an EWF fan, infinitely prefers that version, but I really vacillate between the two versions. The Beatles version is driving, intense, and almost demanding; the EWF version is truly joyous and celebratory. Bonus points because the EWF version posted is from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band movie with the Bee Gees and Peter "F-ing" Frampton.

  2. "I Will Survive" (Gloria Gaynor v. Cake)

    This is a case when the styles are so different, it almost doesn't seem like the same song. Gaynor's version was disco at its finest - strong, female message but infinitely danceable. Cake's version dovetails with the general post-breakup self-pity theme of Fashion Nugget, and sung by a male, reclaims some of that female empowerment to reflect on all sides of broken relationships, belittlement, and ultimately, triumph.

  3. "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" (Judy Garland v. Israel Kamakawiwo'ole)

    Judy Garland: one-of-a-kind voice, singing with a maturity beyond her years. Israel Kamakawiwo'ole: most gentle voice I know. Both sadly gone before their time.

"We Are Photographers"

One of our big assignments in First Exposures this year was the Adobe Youth Voices project. The program received a grant from Adobe for software, etc. to put this project together. Putting this together was, at times, a pretty frustrating experience, but the end result is totally sweet:

(This was premiered at the "Celebrating Across Cultures" benefit held at SF Camerawork on March 25, 2009.)

Here's the description of the project:
We Are Photographers is a multimedia exploration of the role that photography plays in the lives of youth around the world. Last summer, students from SF Cameraworks First Exposures program traveled to Ghana to explore commonalities across cultures through an exchange with the Ghana Youth Photo Project. This visual collaboration looks at young peoples lives in San Francisco, CA and Accra, Ghana. As an extension of the exhibition "United in Nima", the project made its debut in March 2009.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

happy 18th, N

My First Exposures student turned 18 today. I've known her since she was 12. It is totally weird, but so very exciting to see her grow up into the beautiful young woman that she is today.

A day of culture at GG Park

It's actually rare that I take a true "weekend" day (usually my weekends are taken up with mentoring and errands), so W and I decided to have a day date, and spent most of Sunday at Golden Gate Park. The Yves Saint Laurent exhibition at the de Young closes in two weeks, and I've been itching to go to the California Academy of Sciences, so we made the I-280 road trip.

First, the Yves Saint Laurent show:

(from Style Frizz)

I thought the show was fantastic; there are so many "classic" Saint Laurent looks (Le Smoking, the Piet Mondrian shifts) that I totally forgot the boundary-pushing he did with some of his silhouettes and fabrics (there were some beautiful things displayed involving rooster feathers, sequined fish scales, bubble dresses, knitted cocoons, and hand-embroidered pinstripes). Without images, however, I can't really do this justice, but I am so glad I got a chance to see this:

Hand-knit wedding dress, 1965

Next, we went to the California Academy of Sciences. Understandably, this place is popular with families. The announcer guy kept reminding the ticket line that there were no more available reservations for the planetarium or 3-D bug show (yeesh) for the rest of the day. Because we only had about 3 hours, we stuck mostly with the aquarium, and then made a quick jump up to the Living Roof.

The aquarium had some very beautiful displays, and I think they tried to show the ocean as a multi-functional organism (there was a contiguous reef tank, that you could view from different parts of the floor); however, I found it hard to navigate, and some stuff just seemed designed for "wow" factor (there was a convex window that was meant to bring you into the display, but I just wound up hitting my head against the plexiglass). However, we didn't have a lot of time to check out the rest of the Academy in depth (all the educational stuff went by the wayside), so I want to go back when I have more time to really explore. Plus, I must-needs see that rainforest.

Pig-nosed turtle
Pacific cleaner shrimp and mandarin dragonet
Phosphorescent anemone