October 2007

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I’m not only missing Red Sox celebrations in Boston, but also Halloween in both New England and our other home in Santa Barbara. Every year there we’ve enjoyed the annual Halloween Journey at the Waldorf School. Still, we have memories. And photos. Here’s one photo from the last year’s Journey, with linkage to the whole set:

Been following the Alum Rock #earthquake via Twitter. Not surprisingly, the USGS (United States Geological Survey) front page has no news about it, even on its newsroom page, where the most recent item is a promo for a podcast recorded Monday. But the USGS in fact has lots of stuff.

Here’s a map showing all the quakes, including this one, in the last hour/day and week:

Here’s the same data and graphics on a map of faults in the Bay Area.

Here’s the report for this earthquake, with lots of links to other pages, including shaking intensity maps.

ABAG, the Association of Bay Area Governments, has long had very helpful maps showing what earthquakes could do to you, where you live, depending on where the quake is located. I haven’t looked at it in years, but just did and found it is “best viewed with Internet Explorer”. Feh. The “static maps” work better anyway. Here’s one that shows what an earthquake on the North Hayward Fault can do to Oakland and Berkeley:

There’s much more I could point to, but it’s 4:49am here in London, where I need to give a talk in several hours that will upstage everything else until afterwards. Hope everybody’s okay.

Fun with in-line graphics

One of the more odd and fun facts about the way the Web works is that the graphics (or whatever) you use on your web page can be running live from somewhere else.

So, say somebody runs a graphic image off your server in their web page? What are the possibilities? That is, for you?

Here’s one.

From curse to cursory

We picked a great time to move to Boston: just as all the major sports teams — in an awesome sports town — are peaking, big time.

And I picked the worst time to be gone for two weeks. First I miss the whole final game while flying to London. (While The Kid misses it riding on a train.) Then I miss today’s parade downtown, and all the rest of the celebrating, which is always fun to be around.

There could not be less coverage here. I gotta get it all on the Web.

Anyway, the most remarkable thing to me about the Red Sox victory is that they’ve gone from being among the most cursed of baseball franchises to one of the most blessed: not a dynasty, but a well-run machine where winning is the norm. You know, kinda like the Yankees used to be. :-)

True, and cool

Craig Smith: The road to the Academy Awards now goes through Santa Barbara.

Dana Blankenhorn: Dump the Silo Model. His gist (quoted in the long because by shortening it I risk leaving out his full thrust and the importance of it.

  Bob Frankston says we should all own our own infrastructure. Bob Cringely calls for people to own their own last mile.

  I agree, but I’m into simplicity. I say, free the bits…

  Getting from here to there means blowing up a century of laws designed both to control content and to collect taxes, laws based on an assumption of scarcity. Regulators don’t want to free the telecomm bits because they’re on the take, in the form of “stealth” taxes (look at your own bill sometime). The same is true for cable.

  But the companies that sell these bits are also in on the scam. They make more money by defining bits as “services” and by controlling what those bits do, than they would otherwise. That’s because, by selling services, they’re able to act as monopolists, as gatekeepers, controlling both the customers and the content. If they were selling bits they would have to compete, and all their power would be gone.

  This dance of definition, taxation and regulation made sense 40 years ago, when technology was analog, spectrum was scarce, and networking was complex. But today anyone can be a network manager for the price of a $100 router.

  So you should have the power over bits, no one else. You, the consumer, and you, the producer of content defined by bits, should have the power to choose how you send them and choose how you get them, without constraint. When you want to send bits or receive bits, you have the right to a competitive market. And you have the right to define what those bits mean.

  The market, and the government, exist to serve you, not monopolists. You have the power to make this happen, but only if you seize that power, only if you demand that power, only if you organize with a single, simple demand:

  Free the Bits.

Good place to start. The key, in making the political as well as the business arguments, is to show how regarding the bits as free (as in freedom, not as in beer, by the way) will be good for the larger economy, including the carriers who will be asked (or told) to leave money on the table.

We need to show the benefits to incumbency that are not those of monopolists. What are those? If we can’t answer that question, we won’t be able to sell it.


Made it to München. Munich. It’s kinda fun to dust off what little Deutch remains, forty years after I finished taking three years of it in high school, including the first year twice, then gave most of it back when I was done.

Beautiful airport, München. Wish it was clear enough to see the Alps, but a wispy mist lays across the landscape, so there’s not much to see beyond parking garages and triangular plane tails slicing through the fog.

I’m getting by wi-fi, “roaming” with T-Mobile, an international company to which I pay $20-something per month for unlimited usage. Here I’m paying an extra 18¢/minute.

Yet this is the effing Internet, no? It’s not like I’m dialing “long distance”. There is no distance any more, except in physical space, and the space being charged for here isn’t physical.

Anyway, paying on top of paying too much for something for which the first cost rounds to free is a bit of a pisser.

Yeah, yeah, I know it’s not really free. And I don’t begrudge T-Mobile making money charging for wi-fi. I just think it sucks to have to “roam” when there are no additional real costs to providing the service, other than the billing system itself.

Here’s what T-Mobile needs to know: This kinda shit makes customers hate you.

Okay, gotta get on the next plane and fly to London. I’m just hubbing through here.

Err line

So I’m sitting on the floor near Gate 8 in Terminal 1 at JFK, propped like a doll against a pole between a trash can and the only power outlet in the whole concourse, near as I can tell.* People wear strange looks when they walk over to dump something down the hole next to my head.

It’s par for this afternoon’s course, here at JFK, where I’ve become acquainted with how little even United’s high-privilege flyers mean to Lufthansa, the United Star Alliance “partner” I’m flying tonight to London via Munich.

First, it’s not possible to select a seat, or even express a seat preference, until you get to the airport. So I got here early. My assigned seat was a middle one, 37F, a middle seat in the middle of the back of an Airbus 330 Vers. A (333). The qualifying stuff (version A, 333) are from SeatGuru.com and SeatExpert.com, which I’m comparing now.

I asked the agent if an upgrade was possible. Only with United miles or certificates, she said. I usually use the latter, of which I have plenty; but they’re all electronic. United hasn’t issued printed certificates for years. But the agent said I’d need the physical certificates. So, how about a window seat in economy, then. There was one: 46A, in the back row. Okay, I said, and took it. Then she asked me if I had bags to check. I said “one”. Then I asked it two carry-ons were allowed. “No”, she said. “Just one”. So I spent a minute moving electronics, laptop batteries and breakables from my carry-on bag of extras into my laptop bag. (Later, somebody told me that the rule is “One carry-on and one briefcase”. I really don’t know, still.)

Then there was the lounge gauntlet. As a lifetime United Red Carpet Club member, and as a United 1K (>100,000 miles/year) flyer, and a Star Alliance Gold member (it says on both my cards), I should be able to get into the Lufthansa lounge. But when I walked in, the person behind the counter looked at my two cards as if I had handed her a couple of dirty dishes and asked if I was a “million mile member”. I’m not, as far as I know, but said “I don’t know”. After chewing on that response mentally for a short while, she said “Okay”, and let me in.

There wasn’t a power outlet in the whole place except at a few desks in one corner. Worse, the club was on the near side of Security and packed with people. So I bailed, went through security, and found my way to this spot on the floor.

I just checked with SeatGuru and SeatExpert, which showed the below (SeatGuru first), for 46A:

Looks to me like SeatGuru wins that one. But we’ll see about the seat.

See ya in the Old Countries.

* [Later, just before boarding...] I just noticed that Samsung has kindly corrected the power outlet problem by locating poles at points along the concourse, including this one in the middle of dining area. Not much better — I’m kneeling at this one, while all the nearby tables are full — but I felt I needed to issue a factual correction.

[Later again, now on board the plane, in 46A...] A few kind words for Lufthansa, now that I’m on board. First, they have clean, unblemished windows, which is HUGE for a window-sitter (and ‘shooter) like me. Their toilets are much nicer, and less beat up, than those on most United planes I’ve flown. And their seats are nicer, with much more sensible trays and pockets — and a cupholder, which makes complete sense. Okay, gotta go now…

Let’s help the humans

Sitting at Britt‘s place (on his birthday, no less… happy birthday, dude!), talking with Tom Stites, who just said — approximately, but this is close enough — that is about “rehumanizing” business. I love that. Because it’s about equipping individuals, rather than just businesses. For the good of both. But the “—ization happens by, and for, and from, the humans. Not by, for and from businesses. It’s about the point of origin, the departure point for the vector. Humanization. I like that.

The Universe is 13.7 billion years old, give or take.

Earth, and the Solar System, are 4.6 billion years old, pretty much.

That means our planet has been around for a little over a third of the history of the Universe.

The Sun is a Population I star: one with high metal content, formed from matter cast off by exploding Type III (oldest) and Type II (second oldest) stars.

The Sun is about half way through its life as a star, and will become a planetary nebula in about 6.5 billion years, and a white dwarf in about 9.5 billion years, more or less. At the end of that time, the Sun will have lasted well over half the age of the Universe.

The oldest rocks in the scene above were deposited in the Pennsylvanian epoch, which lasted from .325 to .299 billion years ago.

Researching all the above (on Wikipedia, of course) followed the utterance of the headline above by Yours Truly to The Kid over breakfast at the excellent Sarabeth’s Kitchen, on Madison near 92nd.

Sarabeth’s has been around for more than a third of the age of myself, and more than twice the age of The Kid.

Better hurry over.

[Later...] Two bonus quotes, courtesy of The Kid:

  Whether they find a life there or not, I think Jupiter should be called an enemy planet.Jack Handey
  Oh hai. In teh beginnin Ceiling Cat maded the skiez An da Urfs, but he did not eated it.Genesis I, LOLCat Bible.

On the roads

Taking a train to New York, shortly (and briefly). Then it’s London, Denver (for Defrag), London and back. Two weeks, total. Expect light blogging.

Old nudes

Mike Taht pulls the pants off a CNN talking-head feature, and asks, Whatever happened to the ideal of journalism being: to report the news? When did actors get equal time against their interviewees?

Deborah Tannen unpacked the Them vs. Them mentality of mainstream “journalism” almost ten years ago in The Argument Culture. For the likes of CNN, it’s cheap & easy shooting. Always has been, always will be.

By the way, Ron Paul (favored by Mike and many other independent bloggers) will continue getting ignored and dismissed by mainstream media. That’s because his campaign doesn’t fit their templated story, which is about Republicans vs. Democrats, Left vs. Right, Leaders vs. Leaders. Paul may belong to the Republican party, but he’s really a Libertarian. That makes him a third party wolf in GOP wool, and we all know what roles third parties play in the national election script: losers and spoilers. What he says and stands for doesn’t matter. The real question for the mainstreamers is, “Will he hurt the frontrunner?”


What does the Microsoft “partnership” with Facebook mean for users? I just posted that question, and angles toward some answers, over at Linux Journal. In part the post also addresses Jeremiah Owyang’s post, How Microsoft got their Passport afterall. Jeremiah’s right to worry about What Microsoft is Up To here. He also has a good question about what the Microsoft-Facebook partnership means for Google.

I believe, however, that the solutions that matter most aren’t going to come from big companies. They’ll come from independent developers working at companies large and small — including Microsoft, Google and Facebook. Also from users themselves, who now play roles as producers as well as consumers. (In fact, much of the open source movement is about the demand side supplying itself — “scratching one’s own itch” and all that.)

That’s why I conclude my post with an invitation for Facebook developers to attend the Internet Identity Workshop in Mountain View on December 3-5. The IIW workshops — going on since early 2005 — are among the most productive I’ve ever been to. Great work comes out of them, every time. And we’re going to need it now, becaused we’re sharing enormous amounts of personal and social information online through Facebook and other “social networks”. What’s done with that data should be our concern, and not just the concern of those who make or spend money “targeting” us with better message rifles.

Over at Linux Journal, I just posted Maybe UCANN school ICANN on whois. It begins,

  Raise your hand if you use whois every day. Even if your hand isn’t up, and you just regard whois as am essential sysadmin tool, this post is for you.

  Because if you’re interested in keeping whois working for the those it was made for in the first place, you need to visit the battlefield where whois’ future is being determined right now. That is, you must be Beowulf to the Grendel that is the Intellectual Property Community. Worse, you must confront him in the vast cave that is ICANN.

The subject is equally geeky, wonky and important. You might wanna check it out.

As with yesterday’s map, this is a .jpg I put together from this .pdf at the San Diego County Emergency Homepage. Click on it to see it in full size. Other maps are at taoe.org, map.sdsu.edu. and SignOnSanDiego.com.

Here’s the latest Ranch Fire map.

And, speaking of the demand side supplying, dig Network News in a Box: a free grassroots news collection/distribution tool in response to breaking news events.

Consolidated #sandiegofire Twitter Tweets.

Red Sox Rout

The Red Sox are up 12-1 in the bottom of the 5th, an inning that’s lasted half an hour, with runners advancing nearly every at-bat. Eight out of nine starters have at least one run. Two out right now, bases loaded.

The reliever just walked a guy home. 13-1.

Reminds me of a story from Ball Four, the classic book by Jim Bouton. Jim was a former fastballer who lost his stuff, but came back after learning how to throw a knuckle-ball. He was pitching for the late Seattle Pilots in a losing game. The manager, Joe Schultz, came out to the mound. Jim said Joe Schultz was the perfect name for a baseball manager, and the guy had the perfect manner as well. Ever wonder what managers tell pitchers out there on the mound? In this case it was something like, “Hey, kid. Whaddaya say ya throw ‘em some low smoke, we’ll go across the street and pound some Budweiser.”

It’s one of those times for the Rockies.

[Later...] Thanks to Glenn for the corrections (including the quote).


  “I have a theory that ‘user generated content’ is a last-gasp of the regal outlook of silicon valley, where we’re all chumps or slaves.” (Before UGC we were just supposed to be eyeballs, consuming their shovelware, buying stuff we see in ads. They had to adjust their thinking when it became apparent that we were also interested in creating, though we’re positioned as generators not creators.)

Exactly. Here’s another nugget:

  People who don’t want to learn about bugs in their thinking go through life with a lot of bugs. Today, and beyond, everyone has great tools for saying what they think. If you can’t stand to hear it, you’re not going to like the future very much, sorry to say.

It’s not so much a power shift from supply to demand, but the increased ability of everybody to supply (not “generate”) products, opinions, ideas, whatever. This is much bigger than Silicon Valley, or anybody into Big Supply, can imagine. Even after living on the Net all these years.

I know there are exceptions. But the rules stand.

1) Ignore traffic rules. They are advisory and not binding, unless a cop wants to get technical.

2) Drive in the middle. You need to keep your options open. If a rare dotted line actually marks a boundary between lanes, straddle it.

3) Don’t look for street signs. They aren’t there. Only side streets have signs. And only some of those.

4) Be ready to dodge pedestrians. They don’t look and are dumb as geese, crossing anywhere they feel like it, in complete oblivity to danger.

5) Block intersections. Otherwise the cross traffic won’t stop for you.

6) Pull in front of moving traffic. There are no breaks. You have to make them for yourself.

7) Don’t signal. You might give something away.

8] Park anywhere. There aren’t enough spaces anyway.

9) Don’t expect road names to make sense. The “Mystic Valley Parkway”, for example, appears and disappears in many places all across Boston. And not just in Halloween season.

10) Expect construction delays and detours. It sometimes happens that all bridges and tunnels in Boston are closed at once, with no signage hinting toward alternatives.

Tags: , ,

1) Cross any street, anywhere, any time. Your species was here first. The fast metal things just have to adapt.

2) Don’t look left or right. Stay with your purpose. You’re here to cross the road. Nothing else matters.

3) Ignore pedestrian traffic signals. The little white walking guy and the red hand are displayed at random and have no relationship to the signals for cars.

4) Follow the others. The bold and fearless pedestrians near you can show the way. Cross with them, but downstream a bit. If they misjudge, they get hit first.

5) Be preoccupied. Use your phone, study the pavement, lose yourself in thought. You have a life. Watching traffic isn’t part of it.

Northwestern’s Medilll School of Journalism has long been in the first rank of J-schools, right up there with Columbia, Missouri, Berkeley, Texas, Michigan… In fact, Google puts Medill right behind those, in that order, in a search for “School of Journalism”.

Yet here’s Medill committee to explore suggestions for new name, in The Daily Northwestern.

It begins,

The Medill School of Journalism is forming a committee to explore a possible name change.

Dean John Lavine said the committee will consider altering the name to better represent the school and what it offers.

“We’re really exploring what the name should be, could be, what people think about it,” he said. “There will be a process for people to have real input on it, and that’s what is important.”

Lavine did not comment on specific names being discussed, but said that in informal conversations he’s had with students and others, adding “Integrated Marketing Communications” to the name was a popular idea.

The piece goes on to quote a number of students on the matter, and closes the piece with the only source that makes complete sense:

Chardae Davis, a Medill junior, said the possible change really bothers her, and that the school was too old to change its name.

“It’s a brand in a way,” she said. “Medill has a reputation and the name stands for something.”

While she understands that journalism is evolving and so the curriculum is changing, Davis said that doesn’t mean the name should be altered.

“We came to Medill for Medill,” she said. “Not for the Medill School of Journalism and insert rest of name here.”

Back in the middle of the piece, there’s this:

“This is not something that any school at NU gets to decide,” Lavine said. “Only the trustees get to decide the name. That’s the way it should be.”

Let’s hope the trustees listen to Ms. Davis.

Meanwhile, “School of Journalism” has already been dropped from the Medill home page. It’s just MEDILL now. The About Page says,

Since 1921, Medill has been recognized worldwide as one of the real jewels at one of the nation’s elite universities. At Medill, young men and women have been shaped for the incredible successes they have achieved in journalism and the Medill-invented field of integrated marketing communications. Here, journalism students are taught on the streets of Chicago and Washington, D.C., and marketing students are taught through projects for real-world clients in for-credit residencies. Something else about Medill: Our values. They are: 1.) Be respectful of the school and of yourself and of others – which includes personal and professional integrity; 2.) Be the best – which means making no small plans, being bold and taking risks; and 3.) Be distinctive; be you – which includes resisting conformity, thinking uniquely.

I’m sure they teach well and do good work. But Journalism and “Integrated Marketing Communications” — a buzzphrase if there ever was one — should, at most, have squat to do with each other. Here’s what Medill says about the latter at its page:

Pioneered at Medill, the graduate program in Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern educates students for careers in marketing communications and marketing management. The program combines the traditional areas of marketing communications with business skills in marketing, finance, statistics and organizational behavior to form a unique program on the cutting edge of marketing communications and customer relationship management. Top marketing and media organizations need forward-thinking professionals who understand the changing marketplace and who can implement a customer-focused approach that is critical to their future success. They look to Northwestern’s Integrated Marketing Communications master’s degree program to find these professionals.

Well, the one upside I see here is that maybe I could talk to some of these people about VRM, and how “relationship management” should go two ways and not just one. But I’m sure, if we have that conversation, it won’t be anywhere near the subject of Journalism.

Terry Heaton has similar thoughts on the matter.

Lanna Action for Burma, a new Thai blog, is running a Panty Power Campaign against the government next door, in Burma. I’m not making this up. Here’s what it says:

SPDC is the State Police and Development Council, which rules Burma, brutally.

The pointer comes from a friend in Thailand who says this thing is serious — or about as serious as things like this can be. Except there is nothing else like this. But I’m not there and have no idea.

Meanwhile, Violet Cho of The Irrawaddy writes this in “Panties for Peace” Campaign Wins Wide Support:

The “Panties for Peace” campaign aimed at Burma’s military regime is gaining momentum, with the establishment of a committee to drum up support in Thailand.

The campaign began on October 16, with women throughout the world sending packages to Burmese embassies containing panties. Burma’s superstitious generals, particularly junta chief Than Shwe, believe that contact with any item of women’s wear deprives them of their power.

“Panties for Peace” campaigns have sprung up in Australia, Europe, Singapore—and now Thailand, where a Lanna Action for Burma committee has been formed in Chiang Mai to support the feminine protest.

Ying Tzarm, a co-founder of Lanna Action for Burma, told The Irrawaddy that the campaign was aimed at undermining the superstitious beliefs of the military regime.

Liz Hilton, a supporter of the Lanna Action for Burma and a member of the Empower foundation, said that by sending underwear to the men of Burma’s overseas embassies women would be delivering a strong message to the regime.

Beats going to war, seems to me.

Know your bus numbers

I have a paranoid but helpful habit when I travel: When I get out of a taxi, I always memorize the number of the cab, just in case. For example, right now I see two cabs off to my right, lined up at Mt. Auburn Street at JFK in downtown Cambridge, where I’m sitting on a park bench in front of Peet’s Coffee. One is Cambridge 119, the other is Cambridge 129.

I usually remember the cab number for only a minute or so at best, but I figure that gives me enough time to make a call if I suddenly remember I left something on the seat. (Yes, this is a Know Thyself lesson.) Now I’m going to do the same with buses.

Because a few minutes ago, soon as I got off the #77 bus at Chauncy Street, I knew I had left my wallet on the seat, under some cast-off newspapers. In an instant, the whole sequence of events replayed in my mind: How had just walked out of the bakery with a fresh cappuchino and picked up a free paper. How the bus pulled up almost immediatly, so I had to hurry to pull my Charlie Card out of my wallet while stuffing the paper under my arm and holding my coffee while getting on the bus. How I stuck my wallet in my mouth like a beagle chomping a stick while I held the coffee in one hand and used my other hand to press the Charlie card onto the card reader, and doing that while the bus lurched forward. How I felt good about keeping my balance while working my way back to the seats behind the rear door. How I set down my wallet on the aisle seat, moved some newspapers off the window seat and onto my wallet, then set the coffee down on the papers before setting my bag at my feet, all while sitting down at the window seat and starting to read a sports story in the newspaper and taking my first gulp of coffee.

Now the wallet was on the bus, and I was on the sidewalk, breathing the fumes of the departing 77bus.

So I did the only sensible thing: I ran after the bus. Stops are frequent on Mass Ave, so maybe I had a chance of catching this one. I began to gain as the bus approached the stop at Cambridge Common, but the bus had the light and zoomed right through the intersection. Then it did the worst thing: it leapfrogged another 77 bus way down near Church Street, turned left to burrow into the ground under Harvard Square, and went out of sight.

Then I spotted two other busses approaching Mass Ave on my side of Cambridge Common, so I ran up to the first one and jumped on as the driver let off a passenger. Between gasps I told him what had happened and asked him what I should do.

“Stand behind the yellow line,” he said. “It’s safer.”

I moved back.

“Did you see the number of the bus?”

“It was a 77 bus.”

“No, the number on the bus. Every bus has a number.”


“Was the driver a white guy or a black guy?”

“White, I think.”

“Okay. Hang on.”

He drove the bus down the ramp and past the stop under Harvard Square, to emerge on the far side, facing a series of busses queued up across the intersection, ready to start their routes.

“See? Two 77 busses in the back there. I think the second one is yours.”

I jumped out, ran across the intersection, and knocked on the door of the first 77 bus. The guy let me in. I told him what happened, and he waved toward the back. I looked. Sure enough it wasn’t the right bus.

So I got off through the back door and went to the bus the other driver said would be mine. The driver, who was white, said “Yes, I remember you. Check back there.”

I did. The pile of papers was right where I left it, with my wallet under them. The driver was impressed.

“Wow”, he said. “It was really there.”

“I knew it was”, I said, and re-told my part of the brief saga.

“Glad it worked out for ya. Doesn’t always happen.” he said. “Have a good day.”

“You too,” I said, and got off the bus. It was #4109.

The map above is a .jpg I put together from this large .pdf at a link off the San Diego County Emergency page. It’s from 6pm today, Pacific time. I like this one because it gets down nearly to the street level, and answers specific questions in the minds of millions of people who either live there, or know people who live there (as do we, for example).

Other excellent maps are at taoe.org and map.sdsu.edu. Some are more recent than the one above.

The Ranch Fire also continues to grow. This map shows its perimeters. And this aerial photo, taken in January 2006, shows that same area, still covered with vegetation, now mostly burned off:

Quote du jour

Paul Watson: Software may let you have 3000 friends but your brain doesn’t.

A few years ago, when Orkut was new and hot, Rael Dornfest demonstrated the standare social software friend-confirmation protocol by walking up to people, pushing his face into theirs and saying “YOU ARE MY FRIEND! YES OR NO!” Nailed it, that.

Fly smarter

10 Useful Secrets the Major Airlines Don’t Want You to Know, from TravelHacker, via Britt Blaser, whom I’ve never properly thanked for all those nice things he said on my birthday. (That’s a hint to myself to come back at Britt with the same in a few days.)

Fire news, cont’d

I’m just dumping notes here, as they come in (and I can get out from meetings and stuff).

KPBS is, commendably, staying on top of the fire situation, with a number of live streams. For yours, check this page here. Unfortunately, it all seems to be Windows Media. I can’t make it work on Linux (or even the Windows media stuff on a Mac), but your listenage may vary. (Could be they have .mp3 or other streams and I’m missing it.)

KPBS has a volunteer page.

Question: Have there been bigger evacuations than this one in California? Ever? I suppose Katrina and some of the coastal Florida and Texas hurricanes pushed more away from homes, but I’m not sure.

rimoftheworld.net is updating on the San Bernardino Mountain fires. Can’t get on it right now, but it’s there.

Unrelated, but we have turkeys in Boston.

Sheila Lennon on Paul McNamara on Jim Forbes’ Fireblogging. Many links and stories at all three of those.

BloggersBlog has lots of sandiegofire links.

twits: viss, hannabananna, numist, nateritter.

Fire map.

San Diego County Emergency page. It has maps in .pdf form.

Here’s the problem. For me, anyway.

I believe the Net is an open place. Same with the Web.

I also believe private walled gardens on the Web are fine things. Nothing wrong with them.

My problem is when the former starts looking and acting like the latter. And that’s why I’m already tired of Facebook. The “friend request” list (top item to the left there) is one I’ve whittled down from a much higher number. If I could gang-whittle them, I might be more interested, but the routine still involves declining to check off which of many different ways I met somebody (“both owned the same dog”, “set up by a mutual ex-boss” or whatever), and other time-sucks. Not to mention that the site takes many seconds to load, or to bring up email, or whatever. At least for me.

The big challenge for Facebook, as it has been for AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple and everybody else who ever ran a walled garden, is to make their “platform” something that sits on the Net and the Web, not something that substitutes for it. Facebook’s mail, for example, is a substitute. If there’s a way I could get Facebook mail with my IMAP or POP client, I’d rather do that. (Can you, by the way? I doubt it, but I dunno.)

Anyway, lif’e's too short, and this list of stuff is too long. If you’re waiting for me to respond to a poke or an invitation,or a burp or any of that other stuff, don’t hold your breath. Or take offense. I’ve got, forgive me, better things to do.

More fires

, the wildfire Incident Information System is following four California fires:


Grass Valley is northwest of Lake Arrowhead. Inciweb reports 113 structures lost and 1500 threatened. Slide is west of Green Valley Lake. So far 25 homes are burned and 400 are threatened. Road closures include all highways west of Big Bear Dam: 138, 18 and 330. Ranch is west of the Grapevine (I-5) and near Castaic. Here’s a fire perimiter map: a 41,000-acre oval surrounding Piru Lake. Former fires in the region (including, to the west, the Day Fire of last year) are expected to make containment easier that would otherwise be the case. So far 14 boats have been lost. The fire includes the Buckweed and Magic fires, which are converging with this one.

I’m guessing that Inciweb is not covering the San Diego fires because they don’t involve national forest land. But I’m not sure.

Meanwhile, where are the perimiter maps for the San Diego fires? What we need most are clear indications of which neighborhoods, which streets, which towns, are threatened or already lost. If any of ya’ll have that info, post it in the comments below. Thanks.

[Later...] My sister just turned me on to the latest from In the twinkling of an eye, the blog of Serge Rey, professor and chair of the Geography Department at San Diego State University. Here’s one of his latest fire maps. And another. Also these. Scroll down. Many maps there. Scary.

Serge also weighed in here, while I was posting the above. Got that last link from his comment.

That headline occurred to me as I was reading Jay Rosen’s Formula for Online News Success at MediaShift Idea Lab (via Ben Tesch), right after following the latest from Nate Ritter on the San Diego fire situation (tag: ), including his Twitter feed, which demonstrates Twitter as a kind of live news router. (As do Chris Messina’s Twitter hashtags.) The Union-Tribune is now also flowing news at sosdfireblog.blogspot.com. Found that via Nate, along with Cat Dirt Sez, another San Diego fire blogger. Also Brian Auer. And Califorinia Fire Followers Set Twitter Ablaze, by Michael Calore..

And thus the Live Web emerges.

[Later...] 4:32am PDST: This post shows up on a Google Blogsearch search for sandiegofire (sorted either by date or by relevance), but not yet on Technorati or on Google (where the top/lucky result is the http://s.technorati.com/sandiegofire).

[Later again...] Here’s the right Technorati search, to include all authority levels. (My blog doesn’t have high authority, at least not yet. And my search default was set for high authority when I did the search the first time, above. So my post in fact was indexed quickly and I just missed it the first time.)

Burma save

Pulling the Plug: A Technical Review of the Internet Shutdown in Burba (here’s the .pdf) has just been released by the Open Net Initiative, and the most important story it tells is about how the story is told. The summary:

  Burmese netizens, operating in a constrained and challenging space in a country with especially low Internet penetration rates, have demonstrated that the tools of information technology can have a strong impact on the global coverage of events as they are unfolding, and sometimes on the events themselves. The events in Burma also provide a chilling example of the limitations of the Internet, access to which was ultimately vulnerable to the unilateral choices of a repressive regime. However, even the vast majority of Burmese without access to or knowledge of the Internet may have benefited from the enduring achievement of a small band of citizen bloggers and journalists — the uploading of vital, relevant information to the Internet was broadcast back in via television and radio and spread through personal networks and communities throughout the country.

Read the whole thing.

Live.com used to have a great map search that yielded very nice 3-d images of the landscape — much better than what you’d get with Google Maps. Worked on every browser I tried.

Alas, this now appears to be a Windows-only thing. Now if I click on 3D, I get “Virtual Earth 3D is not supported for your browser. For a list of supported browsers, see Help.” Near as I can tell from Help, Virtual Earth 3D is a Windows Thing, so I’m SOL, along with the growing number of other folks who don’t use Windows.

Anyway, this isn’t about me. It’s about my aunt. We were at her house in Maine over the weekend. She has a Windows PC. When we tried getting a 3D map going at Live.com on her machine, we were led to a very long install process that ended with a message saying it wouldn’t work without something having to do with hardware accelleration. So we gave up.

But afterwards her PC ran slower, and now insists on trying to run Live Search, no matter what, when she runs Internet Explorer. My aunt would like help in making it go away. I’m not there, but I figure there are some Windows experts among ya’ll who can post suggestions in the comments below. Thanks.


Thirty-four crocodiles.

Shortest wave

More than 100 times faster than WiFi? suggests that chips transmitting wirelessly in the 60GHz spectrum, where waves are milimeters long, would be a practical replacement for Wi-Fi, or other forms of wireless transmission.

I think the advantages here are high, but over very short-ranges — feet or yards — given the relatively low penetrating power of radio waves at frequencies that high. But… I dunno. My RF understanding grew up on waves ranging in lengths from towers to tonsils. Could be this new stuff has a lot more promise than I’m ready to guess.

I’ve been looking for news about the Malibu Fire. Inciweb has nothing (though it does cover the Ranch Fire in the Ventura County back country, which has grown past 29,000 acres and looks kind of ominous, though hardly as sexy as one that drives celebrities into the sea). Technorati has 408 results as of this morning (6:18am, Pacific, 9:18am Eastern), including a pretty big pile of videos. About half are more than a hundred days (or hundreds of days) old. Some of the personal videos are hysterical and/or lame beyond endurance. Why post them at all?

What I want to know right now, for example, is whether the “Malibu castle” that we heard burned down (over the radio last night) is the landmark that overlooks the Malibu town center. I see here, on a YouTube’d Fox News report, that indeed it is. Or was. This video report is helpful too, from KCBS/2. S

With its ability to toggle between date and relevance searches, Google Blogsearch gets us to this post about this post from 1pm yesterday, of a Channel 2 TV report. More recent is a Google Earth blog post that points to a CNN report from 1:45am Eastern, this morning. Most of the blog reports go to TV reports, such as this one from KNBC/4. Or this one from KCBS/2.

Technorati defaults to date search, and also lets you filter by “authority”, and that helps some, but probably filters out some good stuff too. (My old blog had high authority. This new one had none at first, but is doing a little better now. Not sure it would make the cut for that last search. We’ll see, I guess.)

If there’s any solid citizen journalism on this fire, I haven’t been able to find much of it — beyond the latest on blogging.la and in LA Observed. From what I can tell right now, your best first source is a Google News search. But I’m just one guy. Maybe one or more of the rest of ya’ll can show otherwise. Hope so.

Meanwhile, the fires will keep coming. They always do. So will the earthquakes and other disasters of our own and nature’s making. The Better Ways of gathering news, getting it out, and finding it in a hurry — you know, fast enough to save lives — have not yet been invented. The parts may be here, but the wholes are not. In fact, the holes are a helluva lot bigger.

Prediction: when the hole gets filled, a river will run through it. Many, in fact.

[Later..] Good comment here. Scott Rosenberg also runs with the river-running-through-it theme.

Driving through the Maine countryside today, I realized suddenly that it was time for Hal Crowther to weigh in on Something Important again. Hal used to do this weekly back when we were both several decades younger and living in North Carolina. I’m long gone, but Hal’s still there, putting out essays no less interesting but far less often.

Sure enough, my email tonight includes a note from a fellow ex-Carolinian, now living in Bangkok, pointing to Hal’s latest, Stop the presses: The future of the newspaper—without the paper. As usual, it’s strong coffee:

It’s hard to dispute that the newspaper is doomed in the long run, as an inefficient and wasteful medium that technology can easily improve upon. I’ve never argued that point, in spite of my personal feelings—certainly not on Sunday mornings as I peel off the two dozen junk sections crammed into my local paper, fill a garbage bag with them and wonder which shady grove of whispering pines was sacrificed to make the wretched things possible. Compared with audio-visual advertising, they’re also a primitive, low-yield way to deliver a commercial message.
But the key point of understanding is that while the newspaper is expendable, the tradition it represents and the information it supplies are not. The evolution from Gutenberg to Gates may be irreversible, but as new media replace old ones there’s no official passing of the torch of responsibility, no automatic transfer of the sacred trust the First Amendment placed upon the free press and its proprietors. In fact the handoff, such as it is, has been fumbled very badly. As newspapers are eviscerated, marginalized and abandoned, they leave a vacuum that nothing and no one is prepared to fill—a crisis on its way to becoming a tragedy. When railroads and riverboats began to go the way of the passenger pigeon, no one was harmed except the workforce and a few big investors who had failed to diversify. If professional journalism vanishes along with the newspapers, this thing we call a constitutional democracy becomes a banana republic.

Even if you don’t agree, read on. It’s killer writing. They don’t get any better. Dig:

The Tribune Company, the grasping conglomerate owner that strangled the Los Angeles Times, has been entertaining a buyout offer from an “angel,” Chicago real estate megabillionaire Sam Zell, who’s on record saying “there is no difference” between running a newspaper and managing any other for-profit business. If that isn’t irony enough, Zell’s nickname is “The Grave Dancer,” for his ability to spot moribund properties and exploit them profitably. How I’d relish the opportunity to lecture him on the difference between owning a newspaper and owning a mall. Carroll argues that these corporate leviathans are “genuinely perplexed” by journalists–”people in their midst who do not feel beholden, first and foremost, to the shareholder. What makes these people tick, they wonder. The job of any employee, as they see it, is to produce a good financial result, not to indulge in some dreamy form of do-gooding at company expense. … Our corporate superiors regard our beliefs as quaint, wasteful and increasingly tiresome.” If we believe Carroll, who ought to know, nothing we ever held sacred is safe from jungle capitalism and its harsh ideology, as we might have guessed from the awful mess the free market has made of American health care. Citing Carroll and Washington Post owner Donald Graham as his star witnesses, Baker comes to the radical conclusion that “free-market capitalism doesn’t really work very well in the newspaper business, and if rigorously applied, tends to destroy it.”
“Angels” who come to the rescue of shareholders smell a whole lot like vultures to me. And the vultures are circling. They may not grasp much of what it took to put this country together, but they have keen noses for carrion. If Zell is the Grave Dancer, “The Grave Digger” is a fitting nickname for Murdoch, that successful devourer of sick newspapers whose purchase of the Journal feels like one of the last big nails in our collective coffin. I picture Murdoch with dirt on his shovel and the WSJ lying there next to the hole he’s digging, not quite dead but very pale and breathing irregularly. Perhaps the worst thing that ever happened to news in America was when Murdoch put the word “Fox” next to it. His gross pollution of the media mainstream in Australia, Great Britain and now the USA secures his place in history as an archenemy of the English language itself.
But the Dancer and the Digger are merely broad-shouldered, beady-eyed wealth magnets, crude engines designed by nature for the mindless multiplication of property. A world gone desperately awry gives them far more credit and attention than they deserve. If newspapers achieve extinction, along perhaps with “the news” as we knew it, only the liberals will blame Rupert Murdoch. He’s an end-game player. The newspaper industry stood with a foot in its grave long before Murdoch became an American citizen (for the sole purpose of circumventing the law that only an American citizen can own a television network).

Then he turns around and hits blogs too:

Let me put it this way: At any moment there are 40,000 stories out there claiming to be the gospel truth. Many of them are good as gold, presented by people with the best intentions; many are lies and distortions sponsored by people with the worst. Most are muddle and nonsense. It takes years of experience or constant immersion in the news cycles, or both, just to begin to sort them out. The most plausible, professional sources are often the most ruthless liars, and usually the most generously funded. Never in history has so much sinister talent, or so much money, been committed to creating, shaping, manipulating, dominating or suppressing the stories we hear or don’t hear. A blogging orthodontist with a genius IQ is no match at all for Karl Rove, Roger Ailes or Rupert Murdoch—believe me. It’s not even David vs. Goliath, it’s Goliath vs. Tinkerbell.

Worse, he quotes Andrew Keen. But I’m willing to let that go, because Crowther does the job Keen botched. That job was to challenge, and not merely to deride. Sez Hal,

In this time of public apathy, the Internet’s spirit impresses me more than its performance. When you show me how Web sites and blogs will generate enough revenue to feed, house and clothe the next generation of full-time truth hunters unashamed to call themselves journalists, I’ll shelve my skepticism and join the parade. Either way they’ll replace us, at least in the sense that they’ll be here when we are gone. And The End may be much nearer than clueless luddites like me can calculate. According to Joel Auchenbach of the Washington Post, a committed blogger, cyber-marketing technique—tracking page views or “eyeballs” minute-to-minute—is already corrupting editors hungry for readers. In the wired, market-driven newsroom, O.J. Simpson trumps global warming every time.

Well, crap was king in most newsrooms long before Don Henley wrote and sang Dirty Laundry. Really, is Rupert Murdoch any better or worse than William Randolph Hearst? But Hal’s right about every business model he trashes here. Including the one thanks to which countless bloggers have become no less obsessed with eyeballs than any other “journal” — traditional or otherwise — that lives mostly to serve ego and advertising. More importantly, he’s right that we haven’t found the business model that makes a living, and not just a cause, for full-time truth-hunters.

Difference is, I’m an optimist. One thing I want out of is jobs for journalists, all working directly for the readers who comprise the market for truth — and not just for the advertising money that always threatened to currupt journalism, whether or not it succeeded.

In fact, it was for this very purpose that I applied for a Knight News Challenge grant, just a few hours under the wire last week. We’ll see how that goes (I’ve heard nothing, and can’t tell if the online application even went through), but I do want to get us there.

Rocky finish

Too back you can’t resign a game in baseball the way you can in chess. Because that would be the merciful way to end to Game 7 of the ALCS. (Why don’t they call it the “penant race” any more?). The Sox are up 11-2 at the bottom of the 8th. They’re at home and the crowd is going nuts right now, right after Kevin Youkilis cracks a two-run homer off a giant Coke bottle high over the outfield. That was a homer you knew was coming, just like you did with J.D. Drew’s grand slam yesterday. It was Destiny. Only worse: for Cleveland, outscored 30-5 after going up 3 games to 1 in the series. Down but not out, the Sox began pounding the crap out of the ball. It didn’t even matter that some of their pitching sucked. They had the bats, and they were using them.

But will they beat the Rockies, which are on the hottest baseball streak in years?

I say, Sox in Six.

[Later...] Three great catches to end the game in the top of the 9th. Boston is heaven. The Sox are going to the Mountains. And the Mountains are coming to Boston. Should be a rocking series.

John Scalzi: …so much of the advice boils down, essentially, to this: “become a starfucker for more popular bloggers.” Lots of great quotable shit. I like this:

  If you’re spending your time starfucking a blogger, your sense of priorities are unspeakably out of whack. It’s like sleeping with the screenwriter in Hollywood. The screenwriter who wrote the direct-to-home-video feature. That debuted on the public access channel. In Bakersfield.

Much more good reading there. Via Kevin Marks.

Too much, already

At Chris Pirillo’s blog, John Blue asks, What does “innovation” really mean and what can I do to become “more innovative”? I have an idea but what do I do next? How do I find innovative people? How can my company be more innovative?

In the comments I reply,

  Invention is what matters.

  Those that can, invent. Those that can’t, innovate. Those that won’t, talk about it.

This is unfair and wrong to folks like John, who do a lot of creative thinking about innovation. I’m just tired of hearing the word beaten like a drum.

John Quimby asks, Why is Newspaper 2.0 still Newspaper 0.2? His bottom lines:

  Newspaper 2.0 might be coming soon, but we really won’t see what it looks like until 2.0 managers include video and audio as well as web design and graphic animation fully integrated on their pages.

  Since the entire concept of Newspaper 2.0 is being and has been pioneered in Santa Barbara, to some degree because of the shift in the value of our own conventional media, it will be interesting to see if someone around here will make it a reality that others can see and advance.

Anybody up for doing an sbnewsriver on the South Coast? Datum: We did one once for the Day Fire, now well over a year ago. We should have had one for the Zaca Fire.

Land rush time: I just ran a whois for sbnewsriver.com. It isn’t taken. Neither is sbriver.com.

Enjoyed last night’s . I brought my camera, but only took one picture, which isn’t even worth posting. That’s because it was too crowded for the lens I was using, at the places where I was standing; and also because the conversation was more important anyway.

It was interesting to come to an East Coast gathering where I knew maybe one in twenty people. (Though more than that knew me.) In the Bay Area, the ratio is usually reversed. Anyway, met a bunch of great new folks.

Boston to Earth: lots happening here.

Much more from Jeremiah, who turned me on to the event, and who points to all the pix tagged bloggerdinnerbostonoct07 too.

Here’s the problem with most news: it isn’t. It’s olds. It happened hours ago, or last night, or yesterday, or last month, or before whenever the deadline was in the news organization’s current “news cycle”. It’s not now.

Unless, of course, it’s been fed out through syndication and picked up by a news reader or feed search engine (e.g. Google Blogsearch or Technorati) that’s paying attention to how long ago something got posted.

Note that feeding is not cycling. Rivers don’t flow in circles.

News is a river, not a lake. It is active, not static. It’s what’s happening, not what happened. Or not only what happened.

But what happened — news as olds — is how we’ve understood news for as long as we’ve had newspapers. The happening kind of news came along with radio, and then television. Then we called it “live”. Still, even on the nightly news, what’s live is talking heads and reports from the field. The rest is finished stuff.

There’s a difference here, a distinction to be made: one as stark and important as the distinction between now and then, or life and death. It’s a distinction between what’s live and what’s not.

This distinction is what will have us soon talking about the life of newspapers, rather than the death of them.

Because it’s not enough to be “online” or to have a “presence” on the Web.

To be truly alive, truly new, truly part of the life of its readers, a newspaper needs to be on the live web and not just the static one. It needs to flow news, and not just post it.

It needs to flow rivers of news, or newsrivers.

A year from now every newspaper will have a newsriver — if not many of them. Most papers will copy other papers, of course. But one paper will start the trend, take the lead, and break the ice that’s damned up their purpose in static sites and tombed archives.

One of them will see that there’s a Live Web as well as a static one. And that the Live Frontier is where the action is, and will be.

I’m betting they’ll follow the New York Times, just like they always do.

If that happens the Times will, as it has done before, follow Dave Winer, who has been showing them how with for years.

As usual, Dave has been taking the Times, and all of journalism, to school. (Not that they want to go, but he’s taking them anyway.) His latest post is A new view of NY Times news, and it’s a great demonstration of open source development out here in the everyday world. The dude isn’t just talking about the cheap-as-water billion-dollar idea that will save the industry’s ass. He’s actually doing the work of making it happen. He’s thinking out loud and demonstrating his thinking, right where everybody can see it and put it to use.

I was just wondering if the term “river” has even come up at the ONA (Online News Association) conference in Toronto this week. Let’s see…

A search for ona and toronto on Technorati brings up 29 results. When I add river or newsriver the results go to zero in each case. When I search for ona and toronto on Google Blogsearch, I find 3,215 results, which narrow down to 440 (all spam blogs, or splogs) when I add river, and zero when I substitute newsriver.

Let’s see what they say a year from now at the next ONA. I’m betting that will be one of the top topics at the show.

Nice Vue

To Andria Krewson at Global Vue for the kudos. Good stuff there, btw. Also at Andria’s other blog.

Just got turned on to SeatExpert.com, which competes with SeatGuru.com, a service I use all the time. Both are exceptionally helpful for choosing seats on airplanes. Always keep one or both open when you choose seats on your booked flights.

Not long ago I had to change flight plans while in the United Red Carpet Club at SFO. The person behind the counter was helpful, but couldn’t answer questions such as “Which window seats are missing windows on this 757?”. So I pulled out my laptop, brought up SeatGuru.com, checked out the United 757-200 page and found out that windows are missing on rows 11 and 12. When I showed the site to the person behind the counter, she was amazed, and gratified that people other than United (with huge help from customers, actually) were filling in the airline’s blanks. Now I see that SeatExpert covers the same bases. With more detail in some cases. The competition should make both better.

Kevin Marks: In the Blogosphere, like Lake Woebegon, everyone really is above average.

China is reportedly blocking and redirecting queries of Google Blogsearch, Yahoo and other search sites, all to its own Baidu site. While one can see this in political or economic terms, it’s much deeper and sadder than that.

There has long been a trend toward seeing the Net as a plumbing system for “content” all owned and filled public and private entities that can be muscled into selectively valving whatever flows through it — and not as a worldwide “place” with a nature beyond containment by countries or companies. That’s what it was designed to be, but in reality it’s not.

Can we protect the Net as something non-national? I doubt it. It’s been two years since I wrote , and not much has been done. Today in most countries* the Net has little or no legal standing as something other than a “medium” (pipes, that is, like the cable TV and telephone lines that “carry” it into our homes and businesses) for pumping “content”. Worse, lobbying forces anchored in the “pipes & content” conceptual system are more than formidable, especially here in the U.S.

I see little cause for optimism here, beyond whatever spine the search engines and other large sites can muster when doing business with countries like China — and others who share China’s belief that censorship (for whatever reason) is a Good Thing.

* Maybe some of the rest of ya’ll have details here. Bring ‘em on.

Yes and know

Stuart Henshall asks, Are Many Blogging? He suggests one reason some may be blogging less is that “You are no longer on Doc’s blogroll”. ouch.

Anyway, I’m blogging more today, because … I don’t know. Just a lot of spillover from other work, mostly. On the whole, however, I’m blogging less. I think that’s because I’m working more on various projects. I’m also spread around more. See here, here and (again soon, maybe) here.

Live, though dead

James Brown and Luciano Pavarotti. Thanks to Jim Thompson for the lead.

Brother, here art thou

Every family has a black sheep. That’s what Bill Burton, an Obama spokesman, said after discovering that Lynne Cheney revealed that Barack and Dick are 8th cousins.

Watch your money

From TechRepublican:

  Ron Paul’s supporters have provided a measure of radical transparency into his fundraising that would make most political operatives suffer heart failure. Going well beyond the now-passe end-of-quarter fundraising “bat,” the Paul campaign has set a public goal of $12 million raised for the quarter, posting their current total live on the homepage and including the names and hometowns of donors. If a donation comes in while you’re on the site, you’ll see it update live.

  As if this weren’t bold enough, RonPaulGraphs.com has taken it a step further. Using the live data feed that powers the graphic, the site publishes an impressive array of analytics including a minute-by-minute view of donations and projected totals for the month and quarter.

Candidate Q&A

On the Q side, the TechPresident folks have just launched 10Questions.com, with help from the The New York Times Editorial Board, MSNBC and a total of 40 sponsors. Fun to see that the first video question was posted by my old pal Ruby Sinreich. :

On the answer side, here are the editors:

  Why a new online presidential forum, on top of all the others this year? Well, we believe the internet offers our democracy the chance to end the era of soundbite TV politics and start the era of community conversation. Old fashioned televised debates have their value, but TV has several inherent limits. Only a few people get to ask questions. The candidates have very little time to answer, forcing them to speak in canned sound bites. The audience has no way of providing meaningful feedback. If the candidate doesn’t answer the questions, we have no way of pushing them to do so.

  10Questions will turn all that on its head.

Meanwhile, I can’t resist pointing to the Onion News Network (ONN) video story, Poll: Bullshit Is Most Important Issue For 2008 Voters. Hard to believe it’s not true. Maybe 10Questions can turn that around.


Looking for my Leopard. Silly. But I laughed.

Those were the daze

Get that heap off the lawn, by Frank Paynter, begins with warm memories of waiting in a frozen parking lot at 2am for my dad to come and jump start our shitty ’52 Buick before someone froze to death.

Phoenix by the Sea

Many interesting news efforts rise from the ashes of the News-Press, even as that local institution continues burning down (approaching the cremain stage on an asymptotic curve). The latest is Noozhawk, an effort by Bill MacFadyen, who left the NP many years ago, and put other instructive newspaper experiences under his belt in the meantime. Backthanks for the pointage goes to Dan Gillmor.

Bonus link.

Scary thought du jour

Tom at UrbanAgora: Folks, if every bit of data on everything is available, it will include ways of subverting the systems to cause events that will make 9/11 look like a Sunday picnic. Very shortly, the continued existence of civilization is going to depend on the good-will of script-kiddies.

Read the whole thing. Read the comments. Then go to Mike Taht’s blog, where I found the link to Tom and his thoughts here. A nice bonus is Mike’s Open letter to the mainstream media, particularly CNBC. Interesting thinking and reading there too.

How cooperation works

Rocking talk on modeling cooperation being given right now by Oliver Goodenough here at the Berkman Center. Streaming live.

Trick as treat

If that pumpkin brings to mind, there’s a good reason. The artist (it says here) is Glenn Chadbourne, scary illustrator for the scary author. I know King lives in Maine (and is highly associated with the state), and now (since I just looked him up) see that Chadbourne is quite the Maine dude too. (Which is why I just added the link for him.)

Anyway, all are part of a photo set from the trip, my first to Maine since I drove through there in 1967 with my college pal Barry Bourassa, whose contact info I have long since lost. I’m hoping he’ll look himself up one of these days, find himself mentioned here, and re-connect. Last I saw, he and his wife Cheri had a bed & breakfast up the coast somewhere, I think in Cherryfield. Not sure. Can’t find a sign of it when I try to look it up.

Anyway, the pumpkin above is 404 pounds, and I believe still stands on display in front of King Eider’s Pub, where we had an excellent lunch. There are other pumpkins, mostly of the carved sort (rather than painted like this one), in front of other business establishments up and down the main street of Damariscotta. If you’re in the area, check ‘em out.

Quote du jour

Zoli: our online network should reflect our real-life one, instead of being an inflated collection of data record Amen.

Flying hEyer

As Rick Segal reports, I’ve taken a board seat with PlanetEye, a Toronto-based company in the travel space. (One which, as many of you know, I practically live in.) I’m equally excited and flattered to be there, and look forward to helping the PlanetEye bring the Intention Economy to an industry that desperately needs it. If you’re interested in PlanetEye’s beta, by the way, there’s more here.

Fair and Balanced. Really.

I like The Issue. Today’s is Engineering the Planet.

Knight Knews

I always thought that both WNEW and KNEW (radio stations in New York and San Francisco, respectively) should have been, given their call letters, news stations. Anyway, that thought came to mind again when I wrote the headline above for the news below…

It’s the last day to apply for a Knight News Grant. I put in an application yesterday for what I called Project PayChoice, which would be an effort devoted to making it easy for anybody to pay for any news at all, any time. In other words, to make the consumers of news into its customers. This would be part of at the Berkman Center, and advance on conversations we’ve already been having, toward a supplementary funding model for public radio — one that would equip listeners to much more easily and quickly pay whatever they please for whatever they like on the air or in podcasts (still supporting the station-based membership system that’s long been in place). It’s a long shot, but we’ll see how it goes.

Feh’s book

I’ve cut my friend invitations (not to mention the pile of other pending interactions) at Facebook down from a hundred or so to about fifty. I’ll get around to processing the rest of them (in an annoying non-ganged process that involves multiple clicks that I joked about in the past but can’t find now). I participate, but my felling in general is just… feh. I see Dave feels the same way.

Took a day trip up through Southern New Hampshire, along Highway 130 from Nashua to Brookline, through the town of Hollis. Picked some apples there at the excellent Linn Farm, then checked out a covered bridge in Brookline (that’s New Hampshire, not Massachusetts) that we’d read about the bridge in the morning’s Boston Globe. Later we found out that the bridge had been built in 2001 on the site (and the concrete supports) of the old FBrookline & Milford Railroad or the Fitchburg Railroad Line, and that it is now part of the Granite Town Rail Trail. The site is just south Potanipo Lake where once stood the largest ice house in New England, the Fresh Pond Ice Cream Company, which once employed up to two hundred people — a population that perhaps exceeds that of the present Brookline itself. Ice would be cut there and shipped to Boston in the days before refrigeration. I suspect that the Ice Cream name derives from one of the purposes to which the ice could be put.

Leveraging relationship

Keith Hopper:

  …rooting the VRM opportunity in us vs. them, emotionally-driven arguments is an unlikely way to pave a path towards better relationships between customers and vendors, and I believe better relationships is ultimately the goal of VRM. The more I learn about VRM, the more I hear about the importance of benefits for both the buyer and the seller.

After which he offers four ideas that work for both sides. Much to chew on there.

Exploring annoyances

Hoovers, which I like, and of which I was once a customer, wants me to take a “free trial” but buries what the cost will be once the trial’s over. The small print: $249.99/month for professional subs (can’t wait to save that penny), $50/month for individuals. Too much, Hoov. Sorry.

Running from Ron

Mike Taht:

  In a nutshell, the treatment of Ron Paul’s Republican candidacy demonstrates everything wrong with America.

  Paul has won, sometimes by outrageous margins, nearly every online post-debate poll conducted to date.

  The result? Every major news outlet has stopped reporting on the results, citing vague allegations of probable spamming and fraud on the part of the Ron Paul supporters. One (CNBC) even stopped their poll in the middle when the results were going 75% in favor of Ron Paul. 30+ thousand people voted in MSNBC’s poll, and Ron Paul won by an 85%+ margin.

Well, the allegations aren’t vague (follow the CNBC link), but there’s no doubt that Ron Paul is getting trivialized by the mainstream media. Just as creepy is how the same media are already annointing Hillary as the winner on the democratic side. Prediction: She’ll lose — even with Merle Haggard singing her tune. (Which he wrote.)

More Lessig

An outstanding and moving lecture by Larry Lessig, at Stanford.

Wholly cow!

This is one of the coolest, most well-done musical performances I’ve seen and heard in years. Thanks to Steve Woolf for turning me on to Paul Dateh.

(I know the headline makes no sense, but The Kid wants me to keep it.)

Chris Pirillo: According to my friend Mike Elgan at ComputerWorld.com, Starbucks will begin providing their customers with free Wi-Fi within the next year. Specifically, Mike sees free wi-fi at McDonalds forcing the issue, and concludes

  Unsurprisingly, coffee drinks at Starbucks are super profitable. By making Wi-Fi free, Starbucks will be able to counter the lure of free Wi-Fi at McDonald’s and not miss out on the real money — the sale of coffee.

  Well, that’s my prediction. I’ll report back one year from now — or when Starbucks makes Wi-Fi free, whichever comes first.

While I’d love to agree, and to stop paying $29/month to T-Mobile for the privilege of connecting at Starbucks and countless airports — something I’ve been doing ever since MobileStar set up the original wi-fi system for the coffee giant — I wouldn’t hold my breath. Two reasons.

First is T-Mobile, which I doubt is eager to give up the income, especially when so many people are glad to pay the price. And note that T-Mobile maintains a remarkably reliable system, which delivers solid T-1 speeds at every location. Nobody does that nearly as well. Caribou Coffee has free wi-fi; but in the locations where I’ve tried it the speed and reliability doesn’t compare with T-Mobile’s.

Second is Starbucks, which I am sure would worry that free wi-fi would cause squatting customers to sink even deeper roots into their chairs. I’ve been told (and it certainly seems credible) that one reason Starbucks plays loud music is to drive wi-fi squatters out of the place. At a Panera Bread near where I live, there is free (and not very good) wi-fi and signs posted urging customers with laptops not to turn the restaurant into personal office space.

(Oh, and I don’t think Starbucks considers McDonalds real competition. Do you?)

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in the future charging for wi-fi will be as retro and unfriendly as charging to use toilets. But that’s not the story in today’s marketplace.

Hard to explain

Sitting here watching the Sox cream the Indians in hi-def. As the game winds down, attention shifts to changes baseball broadcasting since I last paid much attention to it. One is that watching players spit is far less entertaining than it was in old low-def. Terry Francona looks like he’s barfing. I’ll bet he expectorates a quart of hock every game. Another is that the network now has a mike trained on the ball as it flies from pitcher to catcher (or hitter) at ninety-some miles an hour. It’s not a whooshing sound, but more like a Star Wars light sabre with low batteries. Strange.

Oddest of all is the addition of hard-on medicine to the customary advertising line-up of beer and truck pitches. “What’s ‘erectile dysfunction’?” the kid asks. “What’s a priapasm?” The latter is just one among the long roster of truly scary side effects for Levitra and Cialis. Prior to this game the only place I saw those products advertised was in my daily spam basket. Now I have to euphemize my way around obvious questions about the sexual inadequacies of aging couch tubers.

A job for professionals

A new President is being “installed” at Harvard today. I’m imagining a crew with hard hats, excavators, cranes and barricades around a large busy hole in the ground, ready to be filled.


Never pick a fight with an attorney who happens to run one of the top tech sites on Earth. Especially when he knows how to play post-a-dope and you don’t.

Backthanks to Dave for the pointage.

Michael Wolff, arch-quotable media scourge, has started a new medium of his own: Newser.com. He explains why, and much more, in his latest Vanity Fair piece: Is This The End of News? Excerpts —

  …in its various current forms, the news–as a habituating, slightly fetishistic, more or less entertaining experience that defines a broad common interest–is ending. Newspapers, the network evening news, newsmagazines, even 24-hour cable news channels, these providers and packagers of the news, are imperiled media (even if Murdoch has spent $5 billion on The Wall Street Journal). The news is technologically obsolete–information envelops us, competing for our attention, hence fewer and fewer people (read: younger people) feel any need to seek it out. This has resulted in a rapidly aging audience for all news media–the adult-diaper crowd–which is sending advertisers scurrying to find more energetic buyers. The view among newspeople is that this is a chronic condition: for 40 years there’s been a falling off of the news audience, something on the order of 1 percent a year. Not good, but we in news can make it to retirement. In the last three years, however, that gradual decline has turned into a mud slide. It’s suddenly almost 10 percent a year and growing. We won’t make it...

  You can’t put this too starkly: the news as a pastime, as a form of media, is vaudeville. The news business–our crowd of overexcited people narrating events as they happen–is going out of business.

  Such an imminent lack of narration, of the search for common ground, may have disastrous consequences for the commonweal. But more pressing is its rude effect on newspeople–my friends and relatives.

  …most of the people I know who are interested in news, rather than, say, social networking, or solitary blogging, who believe news media might thrive, online or in more classic forms, are old.

  …would it be possible to know what other people think is news? So that–and imagine that I am now gesticulating awkwardly–the news experience is potentially about not just my knowing something but understanding who knows what I know, and of my understanding what they know. I mean, could you create a news which would tell you what people at, say, The New York Times think is news? At Goldman Sachs? In Congress?

The trick is getting the algorithm right, he says. Or says his techies say. But finally, it’s personal:

  I’ve done this for 30 years, blended my life with the news. My parents did it before me, and I’ve trapped at least one of my children now (the others, though, resist). For everybody in the news business, everybody with a daily news habit, the news forms part of our identity. But the generational change, the transformation, the schism, may be that this identification with the news, this dependence on a narrator, has become … out of it, square, dumb, hopeless. Indeed, when I watch the traditional news, read it with waning interest, try to understand what Katie Couric is about, I think, Out of it, square, dumb, hopeless.

  Still. I have been starting newspapers, or talking about starting newspapers, since I was eight years old. So here goes, for the last time

I know the feeling. Here’s another: Everything we invent is just a prototype for the next mistake. And that’s okay. The best we can do is leave the world a little better than we found it. All of us found it full of information only other people know. My youngest kid, at age two or less, grabbed me by the finger one day and pulled me outside. “Papa,” he said, “show me something”. Translated to the adult: “I’ve been here about six hundred days or so. You’ve been here forever. You know what all this stuff is. I don’t. Fill me in.”

News is how we fill each other in. The need for that will never go away.

Don’t wear these

shirts here… through airport security. Fun otherwise.

I’m an optimist… The newspaper will not be around in twenty years. Let’s say ‘taps’ and move on. Just said by Drew Clark at the luncheon talk at the Berkman Center. It was a toss-off line, but along a very constructive vector. Uncontained by legacy systems like the print one that both supports and shackles the newspaper industry, Drew and his fellow travelers are breaking important trails.

More… there are different sorts of front pages out there… RSS is a sort of front page… Journalism has a very bright future; just a different one than it’s had…

Not VRM. But a good reason for it.

From Broadband Reports:

  75-year-old Mona Shaw was angry after constant delays and broken promises derailed her Comcast Triple Play installation. Her solution? The woman took a hammer to a local payment center (via) and smashed a support rep’s keyboard, monitor and telephone. “Have I got your attention now?” asked the woman, who was arrested for disorderly conduct.

Getting productively personal

This post by Trey Tomeny got me going on A VRM Proposal over at the ProjectVRM blog. Lots of good fodder there, and kudos to Trey for getting an interesting ball rolling.

Excellent interview with Larry Lessig, on the subject of corruption.

Here’s the corruption wiki.

Bonus link #1: The corruption that is the FCC.

Bonus link #2: Drew Clark of the Center for Public Integrity on “Media Tracker, FCC Watch, and the Politics of Telecom, Media and Technology” … today’s Luncheon speaker here at the Berkman Center. Drew is with the Center for Public Integrity, among other things. It is being webcast live, as we blog. The archive will be here.

By the way, I think the current administration will go down as one of the most corrupt in history, as well as one of the most incompetent. Mismanagement doesn’t cover it. Political philosophy is irrelevant. These guys have taken blindered, siege-mentalized cronyism to its mirror-halled metasticized extreme. Getting rid of corruption and incompetence should be Job One for the electorate in 2008. It needs to be the Main Issue. Having Larry on the case should help. A lot.

Putting patients in control of their own health care data is a Good Thing. Each of us should have the means to accumulate and store personal health care data as we move through various care systems, from routine interactions with doctors to emergency room visits to relations between ourselves and the insurance companies, hospitals, schools and other institutions that have a bureaucratic interest in our health.

I believe that many of our health care problems, including the high number of people killed each year by bad or absent data, can only be solved by a fully decentralized system, rather than by a centralized one (or ones) run by governments, businesses, or some combination of both. Unless the individual patient is the point of integration for health services, we’ll continue to have a system that consists of multiple silos, each with their own separate data stores, each raising the risks of error and ignorance, which in health care can too often mean the difference between life and death.

As it happens, this is (to me, at least) one of the holy grails of . It is the single VRM “vertical” into which the whole world fits.

Joe Andrieu, who has done some of the best thinking around on the VRM subject, points us MIcrosoft’s , a new services provides a way for individuals to manage their own (and their family’s) health care data.

As Joe pionts out, it says the right stuff…

  When it’s your job to protect your family’s health, you need every advantage. Imagine if you had a way to collect, store, and share the health information critical to your family’s well-being.

  HealthVault is the new and FREE way to do just that.

  Imagine controlling the flow of your health information. Whether you need to search the Web for the most up-to-date treatments, catalog existing health records, receive test results, or monitor current physical readings — HealthVault gives you the control you need.


  1. The Microsoft HealthVault record you create is controlled by you.
  2. You decide what goes into your HealthVault record.
  3. ou decide who can see and use your information on a case-by-case basis.
  4. We do not use your health information for commercial purposes unless we ask and you clearly tell us we may.

There’s a privacy policy. Far as I can tell it’s okay. For the purposes of this post at least, let’s give it the benefit of the doubt.

I just signed up for it. Turned out I had an ancient PassPort account with a password I actually remembered, but that the system declared too weak, so I had to choose a new non-memorable (strong) one. A pointer toward help doesn’t quite get you there, but I puzzled my way to something I had to write down.

Anyway, now that I’m inside the thing, I’m not sure how this is going to work for non-obsessed civilians. Which is to say, filling it with useful data takes work, a lot of it manual.

Before I do that, I’d like to ask the HealthVault folks (and the rest of ya’ll) a few questions. (Some of these are also Joe’s.)

  How can I get data out again? Specifically, is there an API that will allow me, at my discretion, to share the data with parties of my own choice? Or to move the contents of my vault to another container of my own choosing?

  What if any of my data, or data about my data, is locked out of my control? That is, what cannot be copied out or removed by me?

  Is this a system that only works with Microsoft-approved “partners” of one kind or another?

  What are the data formats being used? Are they standard and open?

  Does the system welcome the development of standard mechanisms by which my doctor and other health care providers can put data into my “vault”? (Terrible term, by the way.) For example, I would like my future diagnoses and treatments to be copied, by my permission, from my provider into the “vault”. I would also like be able to share that data, at my discretion, with other providers should the need arise. Far as I know these systems are not yet in place, or fully in place. Whether they are or not, I would like them to be built on open standards and to use open data types, rather than ones controlled by Microsoft or any other company. Or .org. Or .gov. Or whatever.

  How about transaction records? Those are valuable too.

  How about interactions between health care providers and insurance companies? I would like to be copied, automatically, on every insurance payment submission by a health care provider to my insurance company or companies.

The idea behind VRM is to enable buyers and sellers to build mutually beneficial relationships. In fact, that’s the mission statement we came up with a week ago today. I think the way to do that is with tools that make the buyer both independent of seller control, and better able to engage with sellers — in ways that work well for both parties.

The key is independence. If HealthVault is yet another system for creating dependencies that trap individuals into coercive relationships, it will fail. If it’s a system that brings a new and better way for patients to relate to health care providers — without trapping the patient inside a closed system — that would be cool.

And it will also just be a beginning. There’s a long way to go with this one. But if the paths are open, we can get there. If they lead to more silos, we’ll be wasting our time.

Reading through the comments to Loose Linkage, where I pionted to Jalopnik’s What’s the oldest car you’ve ever owned, I got to wondering if I could remember every car I ever owned, and what happened to it. Here’s a try:

  1. 1963 Volkswagen Beetle. Black. 1200cc engine. Belonged to my parents. Rolled it during summer school after my freshman year in college. In fact, it rolled over three times before coming to rest right-side up. I remember trying to hold onto the bottom of the seat, watching the pavement come up to the window and disappear overhead, over and over again. I was fine, but the bug was totaled. Still, it brought $425 at auction from a guy who cut it in two and attached the front end of it to the back of another one. New it was $1250 or so.
  2. 1960 English Ford Consul. Black. Leaked oil from everywhere. Bought it for $400, sold it for almost nothing, which is what it was worth. The low point came when it croaked in Hickory, NC, where it limped after the alternator belt blew up on the Blue Ridge and where no replacement could be found, so we had to hitch back to Greensboro. In the rain. As I recall no belts could be found to fit around the alternator pulley, and for awhile we used some nylon hose tied into a loop.
  3. 1958 Mercedes 220S. Midnight blue. Bought it for $250, needed new upholstery, which I put in. Had a “hydrax” semi-automatic transmission. 4-on-the-column, no clutch. The couchlike seats reclined all the way, making the interior into a double bed. This made it a very romantic car. Alas, the transmission went bad, and I sold it for $75.
  4. 1963 Chevy Bel Air. 283 V8. Rochester carb. My parent’s old car, and the first new car they had ever bought. Drove it to 125,000 miles, when the transmission started to go. Sold it.
  5. 1966 Pugeot 404 wagon. Bought for $500. Had dents in all four doors, and lots of stupid “features” such as screw-on hubcaps and spark plugs hidden down inside the valve cover at the far ends of bakelite sleeves that would break. Got rid of it after driving it from New Jersey to North Carolina, in the middle of which a resonator can on the exhaust manifold blew off; and, in an unrelated matter, large hunks of the floor between the front seat and the pedals fell out, so I could see the pavement under my feet, hear the engine noise bypass the exhaust system, and breathe the exhaust, all at once — for another 400 miserable miles.
  6. 1966 Volvo 122S. Bought it from my parents, who bought it new in Belgium . Great car, very solid. Ran out of oil once, however, and damaged the engine. Sold it with 110K miles on it to a guy who replaced the engine.
  7. 1967 (?) Austin America. Belonged originally to my sister. Loaned from my father, who later sold it for almost nothing, which is what it was worth. An early front-wheel drive, it had lots of good ideas but terrible construction. I think Pop sold it for $10.
  8. 1971 (?) Datsun pickup. My father’s, actually. But I drove it for awhile. It had two sets of points in the distributor. Very confusing. Mastering those helped me later when I had a girlfriend with a Datsun 610 wagon.
  9. 1969 Chevy Biscayne. Snot green. Black vinyl seats. Looked like an unmarked cop car. Developed leaks in the roof. Turning on the heat would steam up the windows. Don’t remember how I got rid of it.
  10. 1978 Volkswagen Squareback. Bought it from a buddy for $200, sold it for $225. Something like that. My buddy and I fixed it more often than we would have, had not beers been involved in prior fixes. A few months after I sold it, cops showed up at my door to tell me I needed to get its corpse out of the woods, where somebody had set it on fire. Still had my plates on it. Fortunately, I had the paperwork for the sale. No idea what happened after that.
  11. 1969 Pontiac Catalina. “Big White.” Bought if from my uncle. The trunk would fill with water in the rain, making it useless for carrying stuff in there. Not sure what happened to that one, either.
  12. 1980 Chevy Citation. The famous “X car”, created to compete with Chrysler’s equally bad “K car”. It had front wheel drive, which was new in those days, and a roomy sloping hatchback. But it was crap and didn’t last long. Gave it up in a divorce, in trade for my ex’s old Pinto.
  13. 1974 Ford Pinto wagon. One of the worst cars ever made. This one had been in an accident at some point in the long prehistory before I came into possession of it, and the frame was bent, so it moved crabwise down the road. Every once in awhile it would start to veer wildly out of control, even on the straightaway. It did this once on the boulevard between Chapel Hill and Durham, hooking bumpers with another car, sending them both spinning. Fortunately, the Pinto’s bumper bent completely while the other hardly had a dent, which was both strange and amazing. The lady driving the other car wanted money anyway, and I paid. At some point the car just died, as best I recall.
  14. 1979 Honda Accord hatchback. Very nice, smooth-running car that went completely dead on a winding coastal road in the black of night, and then produced light in the form of a flame coming up from between my legs. I slowed to a stop as quickly as I could while feeling the shoulder of the road like I was reading braille through my right tires. When I fished a flashlight out of the glove box and got out of the car I found the car had come to rest exactly one foot from a parked car in front of it. A look under the dash revealed a hot lead (from the + side of the electric system) to Everything had been cut at some point in the past, spliced poorly and wrapped in gooey old black electric tape. As the splice came undone, electricity passed through an ever-narrower path until it turned into an incendiary thread, set fire to the tape and then fell apart. So it was easily fixed. But the car, in a very un-Honda-like way, was cursed with problems. I sold it to a young woman for whom it performed fine until the engine blew up. She contacted the mechanic who sold it to me in the first place, found that he had misrepresented the car (saying the engine was original, for example, when it wasn’t), and then sued me rather than him, because I had sold her the car. It was a small claims case in North Carolina. I was by then living in California. So I settled. By then, fortunately, I had bought my…
  15. 1985 Toyota Camry. Basic model with a stick. My first new car, and the first that had working air conditioning. Best car I ever had. Gave it to my daughter when I got the Subaru in the early 90s. I think it went way past 300,000 miles. It may still be working, somewhere in Santa Cruz, which is where she gave it away.
  16. 1986(?) Subaru 4Wd wagon. Tried to drive it into the ground but failed and gave it to a friend earlier this year. It’s still going.
  17. 2000 Volkswagen Passat wagon. Bought for $5k from a friend who was moving out of the country. Put another $3k into it, to bring it up to top shape. Wish it was a stick, but otherwise it’s a great little car. [Summer 2009 update: I have since put another $10k into it. I've never known a better-made yet more repair-intenstive car.]

I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few, but that’s an outline for countless stories.

[Later...] Fun comments below. By far the most entertaining (or frightening, or both) pointage out goes to the Head Lemur’s list. Wow. Reminds me of Hot Rod Lincoln, one of the Great Gassed Insanity Songs. Those linked lyrics, by the way, are from the Commander Cody version. The Commander gives the definitive performance of the piece (I just went through the karaoke exercise supported by the audio at that last link, and The Kid said he was glad “nobody was here” to hear it), although full props go to George Wilson for writing (and living) the original.

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Hello, Earth!

I’m at my Aunt Grace’s new place way back in the woods on a Maine coastal peninsula, feeling way cool that I have successfully guessed the WEP key on her wi-fi station, and am now connected to the Net via her rooftop satellite connection. Meaning that all these bits travel a 25,000 mile round trip to get where they’re going. Not a big deal anymore, I know, but I still think it’s cool that it works at all.

We went hiking in the woods this afternoon, looking mostly at fall colors above and soft mosses below. But somewhere in there we found an old mica mine, with some of the most amazing rocks I’ve ever seen.

It’s fun to visit with so many New Jersey relatives that have moved to rural New England. I feel like I’m in Monmouth County in a parallel universe.

Might have pictures later. Not sure. Too much else going on.

Yes, it was.

“I saw your dad playing basketball yesterday,” a girl in my kid’s school told him yesterday. “It was weird”, she said.

Got a few shots of downtown Toronto earlier this week while I was there on a whirlwind in-and-out trip. It was unseasonably warm, and foggy as well. Many of the shots at the link above were taken as the fog burned off.

The camera wasn’t my usual Canon SLR. Instead it was my wife’s little Olympus SP-350, a camera we both hate. It takes decent pictures and has a few other virtues, but it also kills batteries at about the same rate as older cameras killed rolls of film. And rechargeables don’t last for crap in it either. Yes, I’ve updated the firmware. The latest made a *little* difference, but not much. Anyway, if you ever have a chance to get one, avoid it.

Loose linkage

What’s the oldest car you’ve ever owned? In my case it was probably the 1980-something Subaru Wagon that I drove from the early 90s until I gave it to a friend last year. The best car I’ve ever owned was a 1985 Camry sedan. That was also the only new car I ever bought. Gave it to my daughter when I got the Subaru, and she drove it for years after that.

Here to help

Got some good hang-time this afternoon with William New of Intellectual Property Watch. William lives in Geneva and watches the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) at close range, along with issues such as open access and intellectual property policy around the world.

Anyway, at one point I asked him if the term had ever been used. It was the first he’d heard of it. In fact, it was the first Google had heard of it as well. Be interesting to see how it does there. Also how fast Google and Technorati index it. I’m posting this at 11:05:16pm EDST.

Five minutes later. Nothing yet on either. Ten minutes later. Still nothing.

Half an hour. Still nothing.

For what it’s worth, I’m checking on “time to index” here. Neither is doing so good. It’s been close an hour now and I’m going to bed.

Woops, one last check on Google itself (not the presumably feed-fed Live Web-searching Google Blogsearch) yielded one result, but not for this post. It was for this here, which found it first. Feh.

As for Yahoo, its defaulted results include everything for “liposuction”. You can filter just for “wiposuction”, and it;ll give you a pile of results that include “wiposuction” as a misspelling of “liposuction” in scammy websites for the latter. No links to any of that because I don’t want to get your eyes dirty.


[Time passes...] Okay, it’s now 23 hours and 25 minutes later. Google Blogsearch now has the item indexed, saying it was posted 23 hours ago. Technorati has it too, and says “1 day ago”. No clear winner there.

America: On Sale!

In Toronto I exchanged $100 U.S. for $88.60 Canadian. That’s less than cab fare each way from the airport.

Last night the kid and I drove back down to You-Do-It in Needham and picked up some thin RG-59u coaxial cable to run under the edge of the rug from one side of the living room to the other. Your standard fat black TV cable (the very stuff known as “cable”) would never do it; but it comes in thin versions too. Since both my wife and our landlady don’t want to see any wires, we had to get something we could hide. You-Do-It has approximately everything electronic, including what we needed to get his job done.

So anyway, hiding some cable under the rug made it possible for us to see watch TV in the standard way, for the first time since taking the apartment here near Boston. Our cable company is Verizon FiOS, which brings the signal to the outside of the house on fiber optic cable but runs the last sixty feet with standard co-ax.

At the far end of the cable is a Verizon set-top box (STB) made by Motorola. The “TV” consists of an LCD computer screen and a set of cheap powered speakers. We receive no signals over the air, or even over the cable. Instead TV has become nothing more than an application. “Channels” are nothing more than data streams.

Our channel line-up from Verizon is smaller than what we get from Dish Network on our setup back home. No HBO or Showtime, for example. The picture quality appears to be about the same, although in both cases the quality appears to be limited at the source. Much, or perhaps most, of the HD programming really isn’t. Some of it is plain old NTSC (low-definition) television. Some of it is HD but in a smaller area, surrounded by a large black frame. The user interface is a bit fancier than Dish’s, and appears to be faster, but if you hold down an arrow to scroll up and down the Guide, some of the lines change while others do not, which makes fast scrolling almost pointless. Dish also has star-type reviews (four being max) for its movies, while Verizon does not. Dish’s info from the guide is also better, I think. Hard to tell, without having them side-by-side. The music selection on Dish is also far better, since it also includes Sirius. The kid, who likes oldies, was especially annoyed that the category “gold” covers all of the fifties and sixties, while the service has a separate channel for each of the next three decades.

For some reason “Channel not available” shows up with disturbing frequency. Or so it seemed on our first evening with it, lasting about 20 minutes. The main missing one last night was WGBH, our top local PBS station.

The main reason I’m posting this is to pass along what the kid said after we did a scan from one end of the “dial” to the other.

“There’s nothing on”, he said. And walked away.

What would “something” be?

“Oh, you know. Like on YouTube”.

Phone Phun

Blogabarbara reports value subtraction by AT&T on its mobile service to the Santa Ynez Valley. Details:

  Until yesterday AT&T phones worked on a combination of AT&T and other provider cell towers. Without any notice to the customer, AT&T switched to their own cell towers only yesterday (10/2). Their “network engineers” have studied the area and believe this is acceptable. The switch means decreased coverage. For me, living in Santa Ynez, this means the closest tower is 8 miles away and everyone in the Valley is sharing it. Data messages (text, Blackberry, voice-mail notifications, etc.) seem to work fine. However outgoing voice calls fail about 90% of the time with a “Network Busy” error message, and most incoming calls go to voice-mail.

  AT&T said if enough people complain they’ll consider reconnecting with those outside provider towers, but it may take up to two weeks.

I tried to post a comment, twice, but it doesn’t appear to have taken. So here it is:

  Hmm. Back when Cingular acquired the old AT&T Wireless (which was really a re-branded CellularOne), you could go to your phone’s settings menu and choose which of the networks you wanted to use: one, the other, or both. (Why not just both? I dunno.) Since Cingular became AT&T not by merging with another provider but rather by being acquired by a company called AT&T (actually SBC and now known among phone types as FATT, for “Faux AT&T”), there was no need — to my knowledge, anyway — to make technical changes in the network, least of all to subtract out parts of it. But the “New AT&T” shows few if any signs of being better than any ofl the old ones. Alas.

  To my knowledge the only “partner” compatible with AT&T’s GSM transmission technology is T-Mobile. I doubt that’s a settings choice, even if T-Mobile is the “partner” involved here.

  For comparison, here is AT&T’s coverage page, and here is T-Mobile’s.

  Look’s like T-Mobile’s is smaller than AT&T’s, but your suckage may vary.

  In Europe, where every provider uses GSM, they don’t have these kinds of coverage problems. All of the providers’ systems work the same. In my experience the coverage is generally much better than in the U.S., generally.

  Here there’s GSM and CDMA, which are incompatible. AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM while Verizon and Sprint/Nextel use CDMA. In the last year I began working more in Europe. Since I’m a Verizon Wireless customer, and since CDMA doesn’t work in Europe, I find myself carrhying to carry two phones around: an AT&T one and a Verizon one. Both services suck, but with differing rosters of annoyances.

Enlightenment and correction welcome.

Uv cawse

Sez here my accent is Northeastern.

Gizards of OSes

Blimptv‘s ad for Vista is funny, but still not the equal of Ubergeek‘s Switch to Mac and Switch to Linux.


Nice to see from Dave (and Gabe) that this blog is #97 on a new Techmeme Top 100 list — especially since this blog is currently #465,937 in Technorati’s Top Zillion, with an authority level of 14. My old one, which peaked in the top few at Technorati, is still at #877, with an authority level of 1647.

This here is the same blog, with the same name; just with a new URL and a new publishing system. Visitors run in about the same numbers (a few thousand a day). From my end it feels about the same, except for the publishing system differences. (It’s in WordPress now.) I still write it with the same outline editor. (And thanks to Dave for making it work.) But the differences in Technorati rankings show how tied we are to the URLs we use. Thanks to that fact, I have a long way to go, just to catch up to myself.

Odd not to see BoingBoing, long #1 on Technorati’s list, not present at all on Techmeme’s. Same with the new #1, Huffington Post. Not technical enough, perhaps? One can only guess.

It’s funny how we love these ranking systems, whether we like them or not. I think it’s because we like our world ordered in various ways: alphabetical, numerical, geospacial, chronological… But humans have always also been obsessively interested in ranking each other, in the notion of popularity, in who are the alphas and betas among us, and in stories about them. Witness tabloids. Or the fact that People magazine rakes in something like a $billion per year.

It’s something I’ve always understood, but never liked. As a kid in school I did poorly at academics and sports, and I lacked other distinctions that would have made me stand out. (Such as criminality, which was a popular option where I grew up in New Jersey.) Something happens to relationships when high ranking is involved. Those blessed with popularity risk feeling arrogant and entitled, while others risk becoming deferential or adorational. That’s why it rankles me when somebody says I’m an “A-list” or an “alpha” blogger. I’m just me, dude, not a number.

Bloggers are people, not institutions. We’re the publishing equivalent of single-celled animals. Being an alpha blogger is like being an alpha paramecium. And I don’t mean that as a knock on blogging. On the contrary, I think highly linky personal publishing amplifies the humanity of its authors. It puts in sharp relief our singular distinctions as human beings. Each of us is a #1 and Only.

Wonder if…

The reportedly late blog by Aedhmar Hynes is actually dead, or just schleeping. Or something.

Music supply meets demand in the middle

Brad Kava, my old buddy who was for many years a radio and music writer for the Mercury-News, writes,

  Radiohead, one of the smartest, most progressive bands out there, will release its new disc, “In Rainbows” Oct. 10 on the Internet. Price? What you want to pay.

  I’ve been waiting years, no decades, for a band to say enough is enough. Instead, we watched as the Summer of Love became the Winter of Cash, and bands from the Beatles to the Grateful Dead , U2, Metallica and the Stones, just kept upping the prices for music, long after we were all promised that the advent of the CD would lower costs. Ha.

  The revolution has begun…

Brad also has this appeal for Tawn Mastrey, a friend and who will die without a liver donation. She doesn’t need a whole one. Livers regenerate. A piece of one will do. (I didn’t know that.) More:

  If anyone out there would like to become a living hero, this would truly be a huge way of doing it. I myself would give her a portion of my own liver, but… It would take a man or woman with the same blood type as Tawn’s, O-negative, and also similar body size and weight. Tawn weighs about 119 pounds.

In respect to the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for IP-enabled services, Susan Crawford writes

  Thus, the IP NPRM suggests that the Commission views its regulatory authority as extending to end-user software, network hardware, corporate and community websites and more.

IP in this case refers to Internet Protocol, not Intellectual Property. Although, where the FCC is concerned, the distinction may be a fine one.

Meanwhile, Sprint Presses for Cheaper Access to Broadband Lines, in the Washington Post, tells a story too rarely revealed: that the biggest carriers are playing the scarcity game with the Internet’s backbones.

Of course, that’s their business and their right.

The big question is why they can’t think like Amazon, which loosed S3 and EC2 on the world as pure utilities. S3 is storage. EC2 is computation. Both cost who-knows-what to build. $Billions? Certainly in the many $millions. In any case Amazon serves them up as if they were oil and gas pipelines. And, because they are pure utilities, and affordable for anybody (with no distinction between “consumers” and “businesses”), they are a tide that lifts many boats of all kinds. Especially business.

Now think about it… If computing were regulated like communications, and Web services were deployed like telco and cableco services, Amazon and its competitors would live like zoo animals in the FCC’s regulatory habitat — and we’d all be paying top dollar for scarce centralized computing and storage services, probably run on behalf of “partners” in the “content” cartel. You, the customer, would be a mere consumer, producing nothing more than money exctracted from countless “billing events”. As for your business, your work, your power to produce in a networked world… Forget about it. There wouldn’t be that world. Just another few-to-many top-down distribution system for stuff you consume.

Instead of Web 2.O, we’d have TV 2.0. Which, come to think of it, is about what we get with “HD” TV.

If the carriers woke up, they’d look at the enormous ecosystem growing around Amazon’s utilities, and realize that the usage restrictions on the “last mile” and monopoly pricing of “backhaul” are preventing far more business than either enable — businesses that the carriers could also serve in ways that leverage benefits of incumbency other than squeezing maximized dollars out of minimized choice. Oh, and they’d find more ways to pay down the debt the took on when they built out their infrastructures in the first place.

But that’s not the way to bet. Instead, the better bet is more regulation, more favoritism, more ways for carriers to put a free market paint job on a captive market offering, while they work overtime to shove the Internet genie back in the pre-1984 bottle.

I’ve got more coming on this over at Linux Journal. But I’m also kinda under the weather and have a plane to catch soon. In any case, I’ll get it up as soon as I can.