My Google I/O 2019 Experience

Barbara and I attended the Google I/O 2019 developer conference earlier this month. We’ve attended the conference every year since the first in 2008. I also attended its predecessor, the original Google Developer Day the year before. This marks my 13th annual general Google Developer conference, and my 12th Google I/O specifically.

Google keeps altering the form a bit. In 2016 they moved the conference from being an indoor conference at Moscone Center in San Francisco to a mostly outdoor “festival” at the Shoreline Amphitheatre.

I’m still not a fan of the outdoor festival over the indoor conference, as it presents a number of problems. These problems include: sunburn, pushing the wheelchair all over the place over uneven terrain, and lack of power outlets.

They continue to learn from each year’s conference and make adjustments that fix some of the larger problems. For example after the first year, sunscreen was provided everywhere throughout the conference to help with the sunburn problems. They also made session rooms larger and introduced a reservation system so that people didn’t have to wait for sessions out in the sun for long periods of time.

I won’t cover the big announcements from Google I/O 2019 in this post. I covered them over on Justia’s blog. There are, however, some things I wanted to cover that I couldn’t really cover on the other blog.

Particularly Inspiring Sessions from Google I/O 2019

This year, there was a change in the focus of a lot of the sessions. There were still sessions about changed Google APIs and products and how to use them. But, there were also a number of sessions that were there to inspire developers to make great things. Some of them didn’t even have to do with Google services.

Here are some of the sessions from Google I/O 2019 that I found the most inspiring:

Teaching a Car to Drive Itself by Imitation and Imagination

Teaching a Car to Drive Itself by Imitation and Imagination was a session hosted by Mayank Bansal of Waymo. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this session, since Waymo doesn’t yet have any public APIs or services a developer could use. I wasn’t expecting the session to be a deep dive into explaining the process that the Waymo team followed to train the machine learning models that allow their self driving cars to work.

He explained the pitfalls that the team came across when doing the project, and didn’t shy away from the ways the team failed in their early attempts. This was an absolutely fascinating session, and extremely inspiring.

Stadia Streaming Tech: A Deep Dive

This session pleasantly surprised me as well. Stadia is Google’s new Streaming Gaming product that will come out later this year (announced back at the Game Developer Conference earlier this year). I assumed this session would be aimed at game developers wanting to develop for the service. Instead, the session was a deep dive into streaming technology as a whole and just how they changed the way streaming video works to reduce latency as much as possible.

It went into the fundamentals of how streaming has worked historically and how they have changed it to fit this particular use case.

Sound Design and Sonic Brand

In addition to being a Software Engineer at Justia, I also work with a non-profit Community Theater group called Sunnyvale Community Players. I help SCP put on several musical theater productions a year. On most shows I’ve worked on, I work as either a Sound Designer or a Sound Engineer. As such, when I saw a session about Sound Design on the agenda for Google I/O 2019, I didn’t hesitate a second to reserve my spot.

This session was a fantastic session on Sonic Branding and creating sound effects and I for one found it particularly interesting. Conor O’Sullivan is a sound designer at Google and is responsible for a lot of the sounds that you barely notice but are crucial to your google experience. Things like the boot up sound on Google home, or all the clicks, boops, beeps and whistles you hear when using an Android phone or a Google app on any phone.

The session was filled with guidelines on how to approach sound design for a product, which is a bit different than sound design for a musical, but many of the same rules apply. Google has compiled these guidelines and more into a set of Material Sound Design guidelines which is excellent reading (and listening) for anyone working with sound.

On Creativity and Technology, with Legendary Animator Glen Keane

This was a very personal report from former Disney animator Glen Keane, explaining how someone most known for using a pencil and paper to create characters such as Ariel (from The Little Mermaid) and the Beast (from Beauty and the Beast) could learn to embrace technology and demonstrating how technology fosters creativity. The session was deeply moving, and it was powerful just being in the same room as this incredibly creative individual.

As a fan of both Technology and Disney Animation, this was definitely a session that I was excited about. I unfortunately got there late because of traffic, but I’ve rewatched the video to catch what I missed, and now so can you.

Michio Kaku on the Future of Humanity

Sessions don’t get any more inspiring this session with Michio Kaku, the co-founder of String Field Theory and one of the most intelligent people in the world. This interview and Q&A session left everyone in the room thinking about what the future holds, not just with technology, but with the mind, education, and more.

A massive standing ovation ended the session.

My Google I/O 2019 Live Blogs

This year I live blogged 7 sessions for Justia’s Legal Marketing & Technology Blog. I started doing this 2 years ago at Google I/O 2017. I used a different service this year from years past. The service I tried out this year actually has an AMP compatible embed, so for the first time the live blogs could work in AMP.

Here are the sessions from Google I/O 2019 I live blogged:

  1. Building Successful Websites: Case Studies for Mature and Emerging Markets
  2. Enhance Your Search and Assistant Presence with Structured Data
  3. Rapidly Building Better Web Experiences with AMP
  4. Speed at Scale: Web Performance Tips and Tricks from the Trenches
  5. Google Search: State of the Union
  6. AMP for Email: Coming Soon to an Inbox Near You
  7. Google Search and JavaScript Sites

Thoughts on the service also had an advantage in that it had a pretty good mobile app. I had Barbara take pictures for me while I focused on taking notes. Barbara signed into the app on her own phone while I signed in on my laptop to take notes.

The service also had a nifty feature that allowed me to connect my twitter account. Whenever I would tweet something with the #io19 hashtag during one of my live blog sessions, it would automatically post the tweet into the live stream.

Overall worked well, though I did have problems in one of the sessions. About a third of the way through the session, the twitter feature malfunctioned. Instead of just posting my tweets with the #io19 hashtag, it was posting tweets from anyone using the #io19 hashtag. What’s more, turning the feature off wouldn’t stop the deluge. I spent most of my time during that session deleting tweets from the live stream that shouldn’t have been there.

After that issue, I disabled the automatic posting of tweets feature for the rest of the conference. Instead, I had it pull up a stream of tweets in a panel. Whenever I would tweet something that I wanted to also post, I’d hit the post button from there. This way I was in control of what ended up in the liveblog.

What could be better

I liked and I’d probably use it again, but I wish I could find a service that would handle the AMP embed using amp-live-list instead of just using amp-iframe. With amp-live-list the entire live blog post would be AMP and I could actually style the output to meet my needs. Also doesn’t seem to have an export feature.

After an event, I like to turn my live-blogs into normal blog posts that don’t need external resources to work. This is generally better for SEO and it is faster to load and easier to style.

I’ve started converting my live blogs from this year. It is slow going, though, since I have to manually re-create the stream.

Final Thoughts from Google I/O 2019

Yes, we’re fans.

Google I/O is a high point of my year, every year for the last 13 years. I show my excitement for it by doing crazy things like coloring my hair. Barbara even does face paint to celebrate.

This year’s conference felt different from recent years past. I still got sun burned in spite of tons of sunscreen. Yes, I still ended each day so exhausted that I could barely walk to my bedroom. But it has been a long time since I’ve left Google I/O feeling so inspired. Inspired to make great things, to push the future of technology, and to follow that great adage:

“If at first you don’t succeed… sudo” – Anonymous

Never give up. Push the limits of creativity and animation like Glen Keane. Teach a car to drive itself like Waymo. Solve the greatest mysteries of the universe like Michio Kaku. Whatever you do, keep moving forward.

I had a great time at Google I/O 2019 and I’m looking forward to Google I/O 2020.

35 Years of Nicks Life, by the Numbers

Today, August 10th, is my 35th birthday.  I have to say this is the first birthday where I’ve actually felt “old.”  I realize the many friends I have who are older than me probably think that is silly, but to me this seems like a real benchmark year.  It makes me feel like I should come up with some numbers to quantify my life.  Note I’m sticking to things that have numbers here, not listing specific life events unless it is to count them.

Where I’ve Lived my Life

Of the 12,785 days I’ve been alive, I’ve lived in the following states:

California*7,484 days58.537%
Texas*2,967 days23.207%
Florida*182 days1.423%
Virginia1,957 days15.307%
North Carolina194 days1.517%

* Note, when I was very young I spent 6 months each in Texas and Florida.  Since I do not have the precise move in and out days for those locations, I’m estimating under the assumption that I spent half a year in each location (182 days, giving the extra 1 day back to California).  I likely did not spend exactly 182 days in each of Florida and Texas, so the exact number of days for California, Texas and Florida may be slightly off.

By far the longest of these locations is California at 58% of my life, or just under 20 and a half years, followed by Texas at 23% of my life (8.1 years).  If you instead split this up into individual segments of time I’ve lived in individual places, California still wins with this most recent move to California I’ve been here 3,949 days so far which is more than the total of all of the time spent in Texas across the 3 times I lived there.

What I’ve Done with My Life

3,948 of those days I’ve been employed at Justia meaning I’ve worked for Justia for 30.88% of my life.  Prior to that, I worked a variety of jobs for a number of companies, including a stint trying to run my own hosting company for a while.

Slightly longer than I’ve worked for Justia, 4,058 days or 31.740% of my life, I’ve been married to my wife Barbara and she has made my life richer and filled it with love these 11 years, 1 month, and 8 days.

What I’ve Done in My Life

In these 35 years, I’ve gotten to do or be a part of a lot of great things.  I’ve acted in 2 plays, while working tech for 5 more, and I have at least 2 more planned soon (Fiddler on the Roof is in rehearsals right now and I’ll be working sound for it, as well as Avenue Q after that).

I’ve gotten to attend 2 Stanley Cup final games (once in Chicago, once here in San Jose), 2 World Series Games (both in San Francisco), and a number of playoff games for both the San Francisco Giants and the San Jose Sharks, as well as too many other great non-playoff games to count.

I’ve gotten to see 12 Broadway musical professional performances (4 in San Francisco, 2 in San Jose, 3 on Broadway in New York, 2 in Las Vegas, and 1 in Chicago).  I already have my tickets purchased to see another professional production in November (Aladdin), which will bring the professional production count up to 13, as well as bumping the San Francisco number to 5.  Note that 3 of those performances were separate performances of the same play (Wicked), so I’ve only seen professional performances of 10 distinct musicals.

What has Happened in My Lifetime

There have been 6 US Presidents in my lifetime (Reagan started his first term the year before I was born), 194 of the top 200 movies by domestic box office have been released in my lifetime (E.T., the number 15 on the list, came out 2 months before I was born).  If you adjust for inflation, this number goes down to 124.

Other Random Numbers

According to the You’re Getting Old site, I’ve had a total of 630 candles on birthday cakes (assuming I always got a cake with individual year candles on it, which I didn’t), the moon has orbited the earth 468 times since I was born, and the population of Earth increased 60.357% from 4,662,143,140 to over 7,476,065,380.

About that Picture

The Featured photo for this post was one of the birthday desserts Disneyland gave me while I was there celebrating last week.  This chocolate mousse was incredibly delicious and it was super cute too.  The dessert itself comes with the Fantasmic Dining Package at the Blue Bayou.  The meal was delicious and the reserved viewing area for people who ate at the Blue Bayou had a fantastic vantage point to watch the newly revamped Fantasmic show.

Next to Normal was Next to Perfect

My Sound Setup for the show

This past weekend I had the absolute privilege of running sound for The Refuge‘s first show, Next to Normal. When the opportunity was sent to me, I hesitated, it was going to be a real challenge, no lengthy week of tech/dress rehearsals to get sound right, unknown sound equipment in an unknown space, and no orchestra pit meaning the band is on stage which makes controlling the audio levels much more difficult. On top of this, the show was in San Francisco, meaning I’d have a long commute to and from the show each day.

I’m so glad I decided to take the opportunity. The Refuge is an interesting concept of a theater company. Daniel Shaindlin has tried to come up with a way that the best college actors can get an experience to act in a professionally produced show. The group of students that he brought together for this show is absolutely incredible. If these young men and women don’t end up on Broadway or in Hollywood, the arts will have lost out on some real talent.

If you didn’t read that these were college students and just came to the show, you would believe these were old pros who have been belting it out on the Broadway stage for years. Heck, they are better than many of the actors I’ve actually seen on Broadway and other professional productions.

On top of this, to make the show as amazing as possible, our extremely talented Music Director Kevin Surace told Daniel that this show needed professional musicians. This show is an extremely challenging one to play and the timeline to produce it was going to be extremely short. Kevin knew that this group of actors deserved to be backed by an Orchestra that was ready and able to play this music. The musicians they hired for this show have toured, they’ve played concert halls and stages around the world and it shows.

As I said above, when Kevin first emailed me to ask if I was interested in running sound for this show I hesitated.  The challenges were going to be immense, and it would require a ton of energy that I wasn’t sure I had.  When he described the talent of these practically professional actors and these already professional musicians, my self doubt told me I wasn’t up to the level this show deserved.  Finally there was the play itself.

I wasn’t familiar with Next to Normal before this, but looking it up showed that the subject matter was, heavy.  The play covers a family who is in turmoil as the wife/mother battles with Major Depressive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, and delusions.  The main character deals with the grief of losing a child, the crippling grip of mental disorders, attempted suicide, electroconvulsive therapy, memory loss and more.  Simultaneously we see the rest of the family as they try to care for and protect their suffering loved one, and we see the heavy toll it places on all of them and the way it pushes her daughter to abuse drugs.

As some of my friends and family know, I suffer from Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) myself.  I currently take Bupropion to treat this.  While it helps a lot, I go through bouts of severe depression when it doesn’t work well enough for me.  When I read the synopsis of this play I was worried that if I worked this play, the heavy subject matter might feed my own depression, making it worse.  Part of the reason I love musical theater so much is because it offers me an escape from my depression for a few hours, and this play seemed like it would do the opposite.

All this said, when Kevin contacted me a second time, I decided to see if I could fit it into my schedule.  It was going to be difficult, but I decided that it was an opportunity I didn’t want to pass up.  My life is forever enriched from this experience.  Last night, even though it was the fifth time in 4 days that I had seen this play, the performance moved me to tears it was so incredible.  Everything from the voices, to the music, to the emotion these amazing actors put behind every word.

I clearly wasn’t the only person to think so, last night, a packed house at the historic Victoria Theatre in San Francisco gave this cast a well-deserved standing ovation that lasted several minutes.

Thank you, Kevin Surace, for thinking of me when you needed a sound operator for this show.  Thank you, Daniel Shaindlin, for allowing me to be a part of this.  I will watch The Refuge and eagerly await your next show.  For those of you in the bay area, next time The Refuge puts on a production, be sure to put it on your must-see list, I know I will.

Seven Blog Posts in Three Days

Last week Barbara and I attended the annual Google I/O Developer’s conference in Mountain View.  We’ve attended every year since the first one back in 2008 and were glad to continue the streak.

As you may have noticed from my last few short posts here, I’ve been doing more writing over on Justia’s Legal Marketing & Technology Blog this year than in years past and as such I proposed the idea of live blogging sessions at Google I/O this year.  My suggestion was readily approved and I set to work on planning which sessions I would Live Blog.

In the end I Live Blogged 7  sessions over the course of the 3 day conference and wanted to make sure those that follow me on my personal blog knew about them.  Check out the list of sessions I ended up blogging, with links over to the individual live blog posts after the break.

Continue reading Seven Blog Posts in Three Days

How To: Hide content from search engines, and why you would do it

What you need to worry about with HTTPS Everywhere

If you’ve been thinking about switching to HTTPS as part of the HTTPS Everywhere initiative from Google and Mozilla, you should make sure you know what you are doing.  Check out my post on Justia’s blog to learn what you need to pay attention to before you go HTTPS.

A little bit about Structured Data and the Semantic Web

My latest post on Justia’s Legal Marketing & Technology Blog just went live and it is all about Structured Data and the Semantic Web.  I talk and write quite a bit about the Semantic Web and decided it was high time I write a primer on just what it is and why it is important.  Be sure to check it out over on Justia’s blog.

On the claim that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is anti-feminist

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a bit of an unusual entry into the Harry Potter canon.  Not being a novel makes it a completely different reading experience than the core 7 books that we love, being written by multiple people (rather than just J.K. Rowling) makes some of the characters have a slightly different feel, and centering the story on a character other than Harry makes it inherently feel different.

I for one loved reading it and I look forward to the day I can eventually see the play itself to experience it the way it was designed to be experienced, but not everyone agrees with me.  People speak out against the differences in Time Travel between this story and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  People speak out against the differences in the way Ron Weasley is characterized.  I tend to disagree with them, I think Ron seems perfectly normal and the Time Travel is consistent with the warning Hermione gives to Harry in Prisoner of Askaban.

One thing that has been hitting the media lately is a statement by a few people that “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child lets down women and betrays Hermione’s legacy” (Mashable) or “How Hermione Granger Is Portrayed in Harry Potter & The Cursed Child is Offensive To The Fans & The Character.” (Bustle).

As with the other claims, I disagree with this assessment and wrote an Essay for the Harry Potter Lexicon to dispute it.  Please give it a read and see if you agree with me or not.

How I am voting this election


If you pay attention to my various streams, you’ll note I purposely stay away from posting about politics or other hot-button issues. I haven’t posted in the Politics category of this blog since 2004, and that wasn’t so much about politics as it was about the way the Legislative Branch of the government is organized.

I have friends and colleagues from both parties, and I just choose to keep my opinions on political matters private as there are so many people who are much better than me at articulating the political issues.

Choosing to talk about my beliefs would normally incite arguments, and my time on social media is better spent talking about things that people would only tease me for rather than argue with me.

Every election I exercise my right to vote and express my political beliefs through that medium. This election, however, has become such a sham that I feel I can remain silent no longer.

Continue reading How I am voting this election

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