Drone Journalism Survey and a Sacramento River Video

stanford kit drone

If you’ve spent any time at all around me in recent months, you are probably aware I’m really, really interested in UAVs — often called “drones.” I did a brief story on consumer-level UAV technology for school, realized how unfathomably cool they were, and joined the Stanford University UAV club.

Now, I own a Phantom 1 with a camera gimbal and am hoping to build my own. I’m also planning on going overseas with a couple of camera UAVs and putting them through their paces on the Southeast Asia correspondence beat. One way or another.

Now, you can help me out by filling out a survey I’ve put together for my digital entrepreneurship class at Stanford. I’m interested in figuring out a way to put together a NGO or a small business using UAVs to gather both images and data, and your input would be most helpful.

Find the survey here.

Here’s a quick and dirty video of the Sacramento River in spring near my parents house in Carmichael. Why Paganini? Why not Paganini?


Internet Hunting and Gathering – May 4th and 5th

This weekend at Half Moon Bay.
This weekend at Half Moon Bay.

A quiet weekend in California, whereupon I mostly fixed and flew my Phantom 1 a bit. Next step is adding an Ardupilot APM. Planning to learn how to do 3D mapping with Autodesk. My hobbies are very chic.

In recent Interesting Internet News…

Boko Haram ‘to sell’ Nigeria girls abducted from Chibok – BBC News

The truly horrifying saga of these girls continues. Make no mistake: they are not “child brides.” They are child slaves, sold for $12 a head.

Disaster in the age of McMansions: America’s dangerous addiction to suburban sprawl – Salon

A fascinating look at the history and probably downfall of the suburbs. Millennials who spent their overprotected childhoods with their asses firmly welded to the backseat of a minivan: don’t you all rush out to buy massive homes in the burbs’ at ONCE.

40 Maps That Explain the Middle East – Vox

This explainer exemplifies what’s wrong with the Vox model: 7th-grade level writing and analysis that is (inexplicably) aimed to a well-educated and well-informed audience. You can do much better than this, folks — although I’m glad someone has informed me in my woeful ignorance that “The Phoenicians… were pretty awesome.”

DustDuino: A plan to crowdsource environmental reporting with low-cost dust sensors – Mental Munition Factory

Check out the DustDuino project, which aims to crowdsource enviromental reporting on air pollution with the assistance of desk-top dust sensors.

Rough Justice in Southern Thailand – UCA News

Not nearly enough international attention has been paid to the ongoing sectarian conflict in Thailand’s south. Southeast Asian Muslims are treated as second class citizens here, too.

The Thankless Work of a Fixer – CJR

Shamefully, many foreign correspondents don’t bother to credit the fixers who help them get the story out. We all need to get better about this.

The Man Behind the Vampire Squid: An Interview with Matt Taibbi – Mother Jones

Love him or hate him, Taibbi is interesting. And coined the phrase “vampire squid” which does make me like him.

A video displaying that curious anthropological oddity of  a bunch of white, straight guys apologizing.

The Ultimate Guide to Shutting Down Conservative Anti-Piketty Hysteria – Salon

One wonders how many have actually read our society’s most recently-popular doorstep book. (I in fact have – there’s a Kindle edition, you fools, there’s NO excuse!)

Pancho Villa Taqueria – San Francisco

Pancho Villa Taqueria
3071 16th St, San Francisco
(415) 864-8840

Whenever someone comes to visit me in the Bay Area, I am duty-bound to drag them to a taqeuria at least once. Decent tacos are one of the birth-rights of the Bay, up there with eery white Google buses, microclimates, and people who want to tell you about their IPO. Meanwhile, the majority of the US is a filthy taco-free desert, hostile to both civilized human life and actual flavor. So when my college friend Raj stopped by for a few days, we headed to San Francisco, with a taqueria stop built in — near the MIssion and 16th BART station.

pancho villa inside

I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t go to San Franscisco that much, although I do attend Stanford and could theoretically be spending more time there. Possibly because driving through the city during traffic hours is sort of like traversing a Hieronymous Bosch painting with the added risk of mowing down a tech hipster with an astounding litigation budget. Regardless, I figured we could probably find a good taqueria somewhere in the neighborhood, and we did: enter Pancho Villa, up the street a block from Hoff.

Long lines, even at 1:30 PM on a Friday, but no matter. The first thing I noticed was the seafood selection, and not the usual deep-fried and yawningly pedestrian stuff, either: red snapper, grilled salmon, and hot and spicy prawns. No cabeza (beef head), which is somewhat disappointing if you’re into the macabre and delightfully fatty,  but they do have lengua. B+.

You order your food from a slightly harried looking attendant and move up to the line to pay, walking past an impressive display of Jarritos and freshly-made Aguas Frescas in large jars. Prices in this competitive bit of town are good, with a massive plate of shrimp with black beans, rice, and fresh avocado retailing for a mere $10.25, and containing enough calories to fuel you for a weekend or two.

Screen Shot 2014-05-04 at 12.29.50 AM

The real allure of Pancho Villa is the incredible salsa bar, which is a rainbow-colored array of chile pepper confections, reminiscent of my absolute favorite kind of vegetable-powered candy shop. They’re not shy about this, this profusion of salsas: they’ve won multiple state fair prizes for these things.

I was particularly taken with the neon orange mango and chile salsa, which had a creamy texture and a slightly sweet bite. Also excellent was roasted green chili salsa, as well as creamy avocado. You could, if you were feeling frugal and a bit douchey, make an interesting meal out of just fresh-cooked tortilla chips, guacamole, and a veritable bucket of salsa here.

spread colorful panchovilla

Hot and spicy shrimp was truly excellent. Most Mexican restaurants just simmer shrimp in sauce, but here, medium-sized shrimp with the shell on appear to have been pan-fried then tossed with a smoky, pleasingly spicy sauce with both pureed and dried chili, as well as mushrooms, onion, and green pepper. None of the cloying sweetness of some camaraone ala diabla treatments, and definitely hot enough to wake you up if you’re feeling sort of boring and languid.

The shrimp were served with non-greasy black beans and sliced avocado, and perfectly accompanied with (extra charge) cebollitas, grilled green onions. I’d come back for this. And maybe try the tacos next time.

The clientele at Pancho Villa, like most places in this district, is aggressively Tech Bro — a sociological quirk that allows for great people-viewing if you have visitors in town.  We got to overhear a conversation between two very intense men in pinstripes at the table next to us. “You’ve got to let me know if you’re ready to make it big. To really GO for this,” one  man said, in between bites of a burrito. The other nodded quietly. “This could be IT,” the noisier one said, speaking as if about an apocalypse instead of what was probably a Highly Disruptive App.

Meanwhile, a middle-aged female marachi singer with a truly impressive, masculine baritone roamed the tables. I gave her a dollar, which she received in a pink gift bag. She smiled winningly at me, and moved on.

Pancho Villa: authentic (to San Francisco) in all ways.



Painting Things With the Galaxy Note 8

The Galaxy Note 8 doesn’t spring to mind as a potent art tool, but with its Wacom enabled stylus, I’ve been incredibly impressed. Excellent control and flow.

I’m using Autodesk, which is a very useful art tool. Still growing accustomed to its features. Now, need to find out just how big I can push these images if I want to print them or use them on something other than the Internet.

Painting below dashed off over the course of a few classes. I like bitey things.

bitey painting

Another sketch. Love the layering abilities of Autodesk.

naked lady autodesk sketch

Revisiting the Communist dogs I used to draw during my high school years, when I had very normal interests.

soviet dogs


Faine’s Semi-Daily Internet – May 1-2nd

Go home. Internet's over.
Go home. Internet’s over.

It’s already May, and hot outside. How bizarre. May and May Day was ushered in with a violent response to labor protests in Cambodia, and a supposed tourist Selfie With Burning Car after a similar happening in Spain.

Me? Guy Kawasaki came to our digital entrepreneurship class and told us about many things in that sort of confident yet notably low-bullshit way that he does — pretty enjoyable, really, especially when he said in deadpan “Most people are stupid.”

10 GIFs Of Deep-Sea Creatures Encountering A Sub – Popular Science

I have never wanted a submersible more. This is the next-best thing.

Vietnam screams for halt to Mekong dams as delta silts up – The Nation

Laos is working on a major new dam at the headwaters of the Mekong, and many Southeast Asian livelihoods dependent on fish and farming could be at stake. This could potentially be a serious resource conflict, and I wish more in the West were paying attention.

Get Real, Nick Kristof – Foreign Policy

Oh, Kristof. The luminary behind a live-tweeted Cambodian brothel raid, Kristof is the well-meaning but perennially naive king of the Concerned Nice White People. Permitted by his publication to publicly have meandering opinions on everything, Kristof has turned to the current nastiness surrounding Russia and the Ukraine, waxing poetic about blue jeans in Moldovoa. Christian Caryl, thankfully, is unafraid to call him silly.

Investors Wary as Anti-Vietnamese Sentiment Grows in Cambodia – Reuters

And not a moment too soon, if you ask me. Ethnic violence isn’t just wrong, it’s economically foolish.

Studying the Rich – Boston Review

On the discomfort the super-wealthy are currently experiencing as both Piketty and society begin to analyze them more carefully. (Yes, by God, I’m actually reading Piketty. Enjoying it, too).

American Tanks and Dynamite Trash Minecraft Denmark – Kotaku

This is somehow glorious, glorious and aggressively pixelated. Insert your own clever IR metaphor here.