December 2007

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Losing our best

Bruce Steinberg was my best reader, one of my best email correspondents, and one of the best friends I’ve never met in the flesh. We always talked about getting together, but never made it work.

This morning I received an email with news that Bruce passed away yesterday after a brief illness. He was 64.

I just put up a post about Bruce, over at Linux Journal.

If you knew Bruce, or have some links to add to the short list I put up there, please add them to the comments under that post, or send me pointers to blog posts of your own.

As a photographer with nearly 18,000 shots on Flickr (and hundreds of thousands on hard drives), Dave Winer’s FlickrFan looks like a killer thing. I’m especially interested in turning our idle flatscreen “TV”s into useful ways to display the work photographers and services (such as the AP) that I like. When I get home to Santa Barbara later this week, I’ll give it a whirl.

Meanwhile, I think we’re going to see TV undermined absolutely by “content” of the users’ own choosing. TV itself isn’t even TV any more. It’s just one way among many for people to display pictures and video that could come from anywhere, produced and distributed by anybody, including (and especially) the user himself or herself.

When the TV ceases to be a TV, and can be whatever you want, wherever you want — yet still remains that attention-grabbing thing that a screen tends to be — all kinds of interesting things can happen.

I think we’re not only seeing the end of TV, but the beginning of a new life for digital photography.

Y Hoosgot

A couple nights ago David Sifry floated an interesting idea past me: a LazyWeb facilitation service that would flow tweet or blog requests for answers through a bloglike site to which readers could subscribe. Something like that, anyway.

I liked it because it looked to me like a Live Web service with aspects as well. (For example, it empowers individuals to issue requests, independently of any supplier’s silo.)

Dave was looking for name ideas. One I came up with was “hoosgot” — as in “who’s got ___?” Coming up with names isn’t easy these days, with nearly every possible word combination scarfed up, either by legitimate sites or domain squatters. Anyway, Dave went with that one.

Interestingly, the Live Web was first named by my son Allen, whose company GlobeAlive worked to shorten the distance between questions and answers — as did Wondir, the next company Allen worked for.

This is different, but it moves toward a related ideal: getting answers (and things) from the lazyweb. It’ll be interesting to see how Hoosgot goes.

Here’s where Dave explains Hoosgot, and how he’d like feedback and suggestions.

Cliff Baldridge.

The self-described “Multi-Award Winning Super-Producer and Director” has just put out a press release that begins,

  SANTA BARBARA, Calif. & LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Santa Barbara Arts TV today announced that they have formed a content and advertising partnership with YouTube, now allowing the YouTube community to engage, interact and monetize the Exclusive, A-List Social Media Content on The Santa Barbara Arts TV YouTube Brand Channel at

A few (among many) money grafs down is this pair:

  Santa Barbara Arts TV content is now monetized through our YouTube Partner Channel via Google AdSense Video Units and The Google AdSense YouTube Video Units Player. Santa Barbara Arts TV Content is now listed in the AdSense Content Providers Area as Santa Barbara Arts and AdSense publishers are currently monetizing our content.

  Google AdSense Video Units enable AdSense publishers to display relevant, targeted video content within a customized, embedded player that’s ad-supported. Google is working with select YouTube content partners including Santa Barbara Arts TV to supply the video content. AdSense Video Units Program is available in the US and will roll-out to the UK, Ireland, Canada and new countries where video units are available allowing the enabling and enriching of websites and blogs with relevant video content while enabling Webmasters and Bloggers to earn extra revenue from the relevant, non-intrusive ads that accompany the videos.

As if this weren’t scammy (and spammy) enough, there’s THE OFFICIAL YOUTUBE PARTNER CHANNEL itself. It contains this subtle message from Cliff:





Cliff seems to be a happy guy who enjoys what he’s doing, so … what the hell.

Via Edhat.

[later...] Cliff, clearly a good-natured guy, posted a response here.

In The RIAA is Right, Robert Scoble offers a tongue-in-cheek take on the RIAA’s insane idea that ripping one’s own CDs is illegal.* Among other things he says,

  5. This behavior will make sure people buy (or steal) music directly from bands. See how Radiohead did it. By doing that the price for music will go down thanks to fewer intermediaries. RIAA is just helping us get rid of them, which is good for everyone who loves music. See, they are on our side! I’m looking for a site that lets us do Vendor Relationship Management with bands. Doc Searls taught me about VRM. What is that? When we can get the company to do what WE want. Radiohead put the power of setting the price in OUR hands. Brilliant.

Robert is right about all but one thing. Because VRM is about independence as well as engagement, it can’t come from “a site”. Or from anybody other than ourselves. It’s something that lives on the buyer’s side, allowing him or her to relate independently with many suppliers, on terms that are mutually agreeable.

I unpack some of this in a comment under Robert’s post.

A few months ago I also proposed a VRM system that would extend the RadioHead model to any artist.

* According to this post, that’s not really what the RIAA is doing, but they’re “still kinda being jerks about it”.

In her view

Nice to see this interview with Lisa Gates, one of our good friends back in Santa Barbara.

A fist for Palm

Tristan Louis is done with Palm. While his tale of tech support woe (ask for support, fail to get it, vow not to continue supporting the company), it does contain an interesting veer from the typical to the surreal: a tech support supervisor who claimed to be the company CEO.

The basic problem, as often happens with lame CRM systems, was that the company forgot that Tristan was ever a customer — even though he had been one for many years. I had the same problem with Dish Network last year.

So one advantage to VRM, as we build it out, is that customers can become trusted respositories of relevant relationship data. That way when the company forgets that somebody is a customer, the customer can remind them and business can proceed.

Meanwhile, Tristan is looking for a replacement phone and provider:

  I’m now shopping for another device and would welcome any recommendation. I also wouldn’t mind getting some information about how other people feel about tech support not only at Palm but also at other unlocked devices sellers. Is unlocked a category of the market that most vendors dismiss, reserving their best services for 3rd party mobile providers and is it something that might change in the future? I don’t know but what I do know is that I am now part of the group of people who must say: “Don’t ever buy a Palm device.”

Tristan’s basic request (for an unlocked device, presumably with some specific featurs) here is a personal RFP. Simple market logic is required: a request for a variety of specifics, broadcast selectively to providers of those specifics — without necessarily giving up any more information than the deal requires.

When helpful customers show up, suppliers are much more likely to help them.

This story by Dennis Howlett, on how spread and processed news of the Bhutto assasination, casts light on the continuing birth of The Live Web.

We also saw it a couple months back with coverage of the California fires near San Diego.

And it’s still early. It’s important to remember that. Everything on the Web is still just a prototype.

Here’s a Techcrunch story on a patent application by Tony Fadell, Senior Vice President of Apple’s iPod division. Under “Summary of the Invention”, it begins,

  A processing system is described that includes a wireless communication interface that wirelessly communicates with one or more wireless client devices in the vicinity of an establishment. The wireless communication interface receives a remote order corresponding to an item selected by at least one of the wireless client devices. A local server computer located in proximity to the establishment receives the remote order from the wireless communication interface and generates instructions for processing the remote order. The local server computer then passes the processing instructions to an order processing queue in preparation for processing of the remote order.

The comments below the story are worth reading, and a few are very clever. In any case, draw your own conclusions.

Mine is that this is a VRM move. If so, that makes it cool in my book. (Even though I’m no fan of software or business method patents. Still, companies like Apple are going to file them. It’s what they do.)

I also know Tony and like him a lot, so maybe I’m prejudiced a bit.

Think of markets as three overlapping circles: Transaction, Conversation and Relationship.

Our financial system is Transaction run amok. Metasticized. Optimized at all costs. Impoverished in the Conversation department, and dismissive of Relationship entirely. We’ve been systematically eliminating Relationship for decades, excluding, devaluing and controlling human interaction wherever possible, to maximize efficiency and mechanization.

Even the Net has been seen as a way to remove the humanity from markets — one more way to maximize transaction and minimize everything that, from the transaction angle, looks like cost and friction.

With that small pile of theses in mind, check out Peer-to-peer lending hits its stride, in USA Today. Looks to me like the the long tail has a longer tale to tell than can ever be told through the prism of Transaction. One interesting irony is that it appears P2P lending can actually reduce transaction costs.

Anyway, some grist for the mill. Now we really are on our way outa here.

We kind of lucked into finding Goldy’s Breakfast Bistro in Boise. I just looked up best breakfast boise and there it was. The top result includes a review that says “Not only is Goldy’s the best breakfast place in Boise, it is one of the best I have experienced anywhere”. So we hopped in the rented Forrester and pushed three miles through the falling snow to get here, on the corner of Capitol and Main, a couple blocks from the Capitol building downtown.

The review: It may be the best breakfast we’ve had anywhere. Primo.

Now it’s off to Sun Valley. Long drive.

My sister Jan put up a nice photo series of our Aunt Grace Apgar, flying with our cousin Mark Crissman. Grace is 95 and doesn’t look or act a day over… hell, pick a number. Make it a low one.

Her mom lived to 107, and Grace is in better shape at 95 than Grandma was at the same age.

Hoping here that some of those long-lasting genes got distributed in my old bones too.

A white christmas after all

So we’re sitting at the airport in Denver, waiting for our delayed flight to Boise. Tomorrow we drive to Sun Valley.

The delay is caused by snow, which is all over the ground here, and occassionally falling from the sky. There is snow in Boise too. And plenty at Sun Valley, to which I have never been. In fact, I haven’t been in Idaho at all since 1963, and even then we were just driving through.

For some reason I still believe I can ski. It’ll be fun to test that theory.

Best or whatever

Geoff Livingston and Joseph Thornley agree on at least one thing. Krishna Kumar doesn’t.

This is the first slide from Turning the Tables: What happens when the users are really in charge — the talk I gave at in Paris a couple weeks ago. The predictions are somewhat long-term. I’ll have some just for 2008 up soon at .

All the LeWeb3 videos are up now, by the way. Mine among them, I assume. Haven’t checked. (Hey, it’s Christmas. I wouldn’t be posting anything if I wasn’t sitting in a basement waiting to pull clothes from a dryer.)

It’s getting late

Actual dialog:

  Father: Want to track Santa?
  Son: Let’s look at The Onion.

Drifter snow

Best Christmas music video. Drifters. Circa 1955, as I recall. That’s Clyde McPhatter behind the white reindeer’s lip-sync. And Bill Pinkney as Santa. Or vice versa. Bonus Elvis link.

Nice, huh? It’s now minutes away from Dec 24.

So it almost certainly won’t get there by Christmas. And I bought it early morning Dec 18, and paid extra for Second Day Air, to get it there by then. The site even encouraged buying because there was still plenty of time.

But no email came. No call from a robot. Nothing. Just “Not yet shipped”. Damn. This really sucks.

[Later...] Turns out Apple sent an email to my never-used address at Or says they did. I can’t find it there. Seems they stopped the order so I could authorize my credit card compnay to do something it’s always been authorized to do: send something to an address other than my biling one. I’ve used this credit card many times to send stuff to addresses other than mine, so I don’t know what the deal is.

Actually, it’s no deal. I’m cancelling the order.

And I’m giving props to the manager of the Apple store in Durham, North Carolina. He came up with a clever alternate solution, which we’re carrying out now. Much appreciated.

Over in Linux Journal: Why Big Compute and Big Storage will meet Big Pipe at the Last Mile. A sample:

  What you’re seeing here, at least partially (and ever more completely), is the new phone company business being re-invented from the back end forward. What makes AWS a phone company business is DevPay. Billing. Phone companies are basically billing engines. The difference is that phone companies have long been in the business of billing in monopoly conditions, often for scarcities that are essentially artificial. That is, created for the simple need to have something to bill.

  The new phone company business, however, is one that’s built around abundance. That’s the clinic Amazon is holding for phone companies — and cable companies as well — with AWS.

  Amazon is also setting itself up as an ideal partner for phone and cable companies, which bring several huge assets to the collective table: customers, local real estate, and pipes over the last mile to homes and businesses. Not to mention billing engines that can be repurposed for anything.

Might be a far-out idea. But I do think it’s huge.

Fake out

First, Fake Steve Jobs. Now, Fake Everybody.

And Marc makes 25

Thanks to Marc Canter for his 24 who mattered in 2007. Of course there were countless more. But Marc has been mattering every year. So, a toast to the big guy for staying equally smart, enthused, insightful and effective for a helluva long time. Rock on, dude.

Earliest Amazon

Love Introducing the book. The original help desk.

Point du jour

What most business leaders don’t understand today is that the social web is a medium for open, honest and frank conversations between people, one to one to millions. Nothing can be hidden and the more people that become engaged the greater the reach of the conversations.Jay Deragon

Jay’s blog is I like his ideas. Check it out.

To understand journalism, you need to know the nature of The Story. Every story has three elements: 1) a character, 2) a problem, and 3) movement toward resolution. The character could be a person, a cause, a ball club — doesn’t matter, as long as the reader (or the viewer, or the listener) can identify with it (or him, or her, or them). The problem is what keeps us reading forward, turning the pages, or staying tuned in. It’s what keeps things interesting. And the motion has to vector toward resolution, even if the conclusion is far off in the future.

Sports are pure story fodder. Teams and players are your characters, the games and the procession of opponents are the problem (and the problems within the problem), and there is always movement toward resolution. Even after resolution, new problems, often with new characters within the team’s own character, are being queue’d up.

There are lots of important developments, however, that do not conform to the story format, so they go unreported. One example is murder in places where sudden and senseless death is common. Such has been the case in Los Angeles for many decades. It was, after all, the very point of Chinatown.

Well, L.A. is no Chinatown for Jill Leovy, who has been blogging otherwise uncovered homicides around the city for most of the last year. Her blog is one of the LA Times’s, and it is itself the subject of Life After Death, a Times story about a reporter reporting stories that fail to fit in the Times’ own limited number of pages. Leovy’s own story is an interesting one…

  People often ask if the work depresses her, a question she finds irritating. “Yes,” she tells them. “I find it depressing and upsetting. That’s why I do it.”

… as are the stories she crafts and her blog hosts:

  “The real story,” says Leovy, is the shooting victim’s mother who staggers into the intensive care unit and cannot see her son’s face through his ventilator, yet manages to spot a tear in the corner of his eye…
  Because so few murders receive any other coverage, victims’ family members use the Homicide Report as a memorial wall on which they can etch online eulogies. After Leovy reported the death of a Long Beach man in his thirties, she received one brief response: “He was my father.” After scrolling through the listing of victims, another reader wrote, “Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!”

Stories are the basic format of human interest. The LA Times’ many blogs provide ways to surface more stories, in more ways, for more readers who might find some of those stories meaningful. Or effective, if a larger purpose is involved. Clearly The Homicide Report is far more than an accessory to the coroner’s office. Its own story is Leovy’s mission to expose and reduce the plague of death that continues to afflict her city:

  “If you just brush away the high homicide rate in South L.A. as the city’s dirty little secret, I don’t think we’ll ever make the commitment or allocate the resources necessary to change it,” says Charlie Beck, deputy chief of the LAPD’s South Bureau. “Equal justice and coverage of everyone — that’s the reason I think she does the blog, and I agree with that.”

As for the rest of the LA Times’ blogs, it’s getting harder to tell where the paper ends and the blogging begins — unless all you read is the paper and never go online, in which case you miss more and more of what the paper is becoming.

Supporting that observation are Tony Pierce’s take on his first day as blog editor at the paper, and departed assistant editorial page editor Matt Welch’s blast at an especially pontifical piece by Tim Rutten, the Times’ media columnist. Rutten (whom I’ve always liked, for what it’s worth) is moving on too, as he explains in this piece about turnover at the top of the Times’ parent company.

Companies are ways of organizing work and resources. They are also teams on missions to solve problems. How the ones we call ‘papers’ adapt to a world where more can be written online than off, and for more readers, is the top evolutionary challenge for the institution we call journalism, and therefore its most important story.

The principles of practice are the same. The enviornment is not. Nor are the opportunities, which are far more abundant, if less obviously remunerative. (Not all journalists can live alongside the advertising river. Nor should they.) Which means there will continue to be a struggle between missions like Leovy’s and the need for paychecks.

News vs./+ News-Press, cont’d

Los Angeles Magazine has a long and excellent piece by RJ Smith on the News-Press mess in Santa Barbara. It’s about two subjects. One is the meltdown at the paper itself — a story that’s now a year and a half old, with no sign of ever ending. The other is the question of whether a newspaper — especially one that has long been a bedrock civic institution — is a public trust. The News-Press, sadly, is not. It only looks like one. Via Craig Smith.

SexE B

Sean Bonner is a Top 10 sexy geek, according to Violet Blue. Tantek is a runner-up. So is Zadi. Those are the three out of 20 listed that I know on a first name basis. Or at all.

No Tony? Not even when he says, my advice is, if people are dissing you at your workplace get out as fast as you can because there is a place for you somewhere else, and they might even give you an office and let you come in after 10am and not even blink. Sounds pretty sexy to me.

Cool to see Dave is going to CES. This has become an annual pilgrimage for me — covering the event for . 2008 is no exception. I’ll be there for the whole thing. (Though I’ll skip the always crowded and equally pointless Bill Gates keynote.)

CES stands for Consumer Electronics Show, although it’s really about Producer Electronics. At some point the abundance of individual and small producers will outweigh the big name brand ones, and a flip will happen in the marketplace. I think that will come when the customers are no longer just consumers, but active participants in the market’s conversation about product development. There are already moves in that direction. Expect many more.

Predicting the futures

Stephen Wellman has a nice rundown of Mark Anderson‘s predictions for 2008 (most of which I agree with — in some cases enthusiastically —, though it’ll take more than a year for many of them to pan out). What’s also cool is that Stephen includes a pointer back to Mark’s predictions for 2007, some of which were right on.

Links to the audio and video of the predictive talk are here.

David Isenberg has announced the next F2C: Freedom to Connect, which will happen on March 31 and April 1 of next year, in Washington, DC. The theme is “The NetHeads come to Washington”. The new term “NetHeads” is counterposed to the old term “BellHeads”, which referred to folks whose world view was framed by the old Bell System, which was the U.S. telephone monopoly until 1984. The successors to that system broadly include the telcos and cablecos through which nearly all U.S. customers connect to the Net.

F2C is for what David calls “the creators of the future of the Internet”, and will be “a meeting of people engaged with Internet connectivity and all that it enables, including vendors, customers, regulators, legislators, analysts, financiers, citizens and co-creators”. The theme is “how universal connectivity and the plunging capital requirements of information production are changing our fundamental economic and social assumptions”.

F2C one of my favorite events. I’ll be going. If you care about the future of the Net, and how it is regulated (and de-regulated) in the U.S., I highly recommend it.

Q from MA

Why, in online personal information forms, is the state (or province) almost always in a pull-down menu? Why not have people type in the state, and correct them when they type in more or less than two letters?

For most of the form you can enter everything without leaving the keyboard. But the state or provice entry almost always requires a mouse. Why? Is it that hard to type two letters?

These days most browsers do a good job of auto-filling the blanks in any case.

Anyway, it’s a small quibble that’s irritated me for years, and I feel like sharing my feelings about it. Finally, I hope.

An idea that needs to snowball

Nothing is more likely to get me to come to the Berkshires in coldest winter than the chance to help build and coat Freezing Man.

Justin Karp: iPhone crushes the competition. All of them. That post sources this post buy jkOnTheRun, which sources this post by Daniel Eran Dilger, which sources Canalys, which says nothing on its site. So the closest I can can get to the source is Daniel, who says,

  In its first full quarter of sales, the iPhone has already climbed past Microsoft’s entire lineup of Windows Mobile smartphones in North America, according to figures compiled by Canalys and published by Symbian. That puts the iPhone ahead of smartphones running Symbian, Linux, and the Palm OS, but behind the first place RIM BlackBerry. The figures mesh with retail sales data already reported by NPD, which similarly described the size of the US market with a 27% chunk bit out by Apple’s iPhone.

But I’m wondering if “smartphone” is the right category here. Because when I look at how people use their iPhones — and the way Apple has restricted most development (so far) to what you can put in a browser — it seems to me that the iPhone is really a new kind of phone/browser hybrid, which I suggest calling a phrowser.

Just checked whois. isn’t taken.

By the way, I got some hang time at the airport in Paris with one of the Swisscom engineers who worked on the job. He told me a new phenomenon at conferences is the huge number of iPhones that are contending for Net access over wi-fi alongside laptops. I suggest this also supports the phrowser categorization.

Should Brands Join or Build Their Own Social Network? is the question Jeremiah Owyang raised yesterday on Twitter and in facebook. If you’re a facebook member, you can participate. I am a member, but I’d rather not. At least, not there.

All due respect (and I respect Jeremiah a great deal), I’d rather talk outside the facewall.

Forgive me for being an old fart, but today’s “social networks” look to me like yesterday’s online services. Remember AOL, Prodigy, Compuserve and the rest? Facebook to me is just AOL done right. Or done over, better. But it’s still a walled garden. It’s still somebody’s private space. Me, I’d rather take it outside, where the conversation is free and open to anybody.

So here’s what I think.

First, I’m not sure a “brand” can get social at all. The term was borrowed from the cattle industry in the first place, and will never escape that legacy, now matter how much lipstick we put on the branding iron.

Second, the notion of “brands” either “building” or “joining” social networks strikes me as inherently promotional in either case, and therefore compromised as a “social” effort. Speaking personally, I wouldn’t join a social network any brand built, and I wouldn’t want any brand trying to join one I built. But that’s just me. Your socializing may vary. (And, by the way, if I wear a t-shirt with some company’s name on it, that doesn’t mean I belong to that company’s “network”. All it means for sure is that I’m wearing a t-shirt that was clean that morning. It might mean I like that company or organization. At most it means I have some kind of loyalty — although in the cases of sports teams and schools, the loyalty and sense of affiliation is not to a “brand”, unless you insist on looking at everything in commercial terms, one of which “brand” is. My main points here are that, a) there may be less to expressions of apparent loyalty than it may appear, and b) the social qualities of affection, affiliation or belonging mostly don’t derive from “branding” in the sense that Procter & Gamble began popularizing the term back in the 1930s.)

Third, I’m not sure social networks are “built” in any case. Seems to me they’re more organic than structural. Maybe I’m getting too academic here, but I don’t think so. Words have meanings, and those meanings matter. When I think about my social networks — and I have many — I don’t see them as things, or places. I see them as collections of people I know. The best collections of those for me aren’t on facebook or LinkedIn. They’re in my IM buddy list and my email address book. Even if I can extend those two lists into a “social graph” (a term that drives me up a wall), and somehow federate them into these mostly-commercial things we call “social networks” on the Web, I don’t see those “networks” as structures. I see them as people. Huge difference. Critical difference.

Fourth, the thing companies need to do most is stop being all “strategic” about how their people communicate. Stop running all speech through official orifices. Some businesses have highly regulated speech, to be sure. Pharmaceuticals come to mind. But most companies would benefit from having their employees talk about what they do. Yet there are still too many companies where employees can’t say a damn thing without clearing it somehow. And in too many companies employees give up because the company’s communications policy is modeled on a fort, complete with firewalls that would put the average dictatorship to shame. If a company wants to get social, they should let their employees talk. And trust them.

Bottom line: companies aren’t people. If you like talking about your work, and doing that helps your company, the “social network” mission is accomplished. Simple as that.

One last thing. I’m not saying facebook or LinkedIn are bad. They can be useful for many things, and their leaders deserve kudos for the successes they’ve earned. Still it creeps me out when people treat facebook as “The Web, only better”. It ain’t the Web and it ain’t better. It’s a new, interesting and widespread set of experiments, mostly in technology and business. I’m interested in seeing where it goes. But I’m not drinking the kool-aid.

O’Reilly has made the entire corpus of Esther Dyson’s Release 1.0 available. You can download every issue in .pdf form at that link. (It would be cool if the download page included titles. Perhaps the lazyweb can fill in some blanks there.)

If you want to see the one issue I wrote, select the year 2004 and hit the Download Issue link for May. Or just click here.

The whole series has enormous historical value. Esther was (and still is) unusually good at both seeing future directions and bringing a critical sensibility to covering those who would take us there.

Release 1.0 wasn’t cheap. (Nor is its successor.) For many of the years Release 1.0 ran, I not only subscribed but also went to Esther’s equally exceptional PC Forum conference, which I still miss.

Props to O’Reilly for putting this important periodical on a public bookshelf.

Take note(s)

Susan Kish took some outstanding notes from my talk at last week. Bonus link: Tips for Conference Bloggers, by Bruno Guissani and Ethan Zuckerman.

Am I alone in beginning to think that a blog post is just a Twitter post that’s longer than 140 characters?

Anyway, I’m typing this at the eye doctor’s office, following up on my visit here in November, when my right eye went through posterior vitreous detachment. (Not as bad as it sounds; just annoying.) My eyes have now been dilated, and I’m writing this with the outliner set to supersize type, so I can read what I’m writing through the blur.

But I’m not posting about the subjects of either of those first two paragraphs. I’m posting about the continuing refresher course in Northeastern Living I’m getting by dwelling in Boston.

This morning’s lessons: Walking on frozen slush, and Waiting for the Bus. If the slush is broken up by footprints and tire tracks before it freezes, it’s not hard to traverse, provided your shoes or boots (the latter are preferable) have tread on them. And if your bus is already full of people when it pulls in to pick up the fifteen or twenty at your stop, don’t worry. They’ll fit.

I’ll unpack the latter lesson.

As the 79 bus to Alewife pulled up to my stop on Mass Ave, the guy standing next to me saw how crowded the bus was, then said “No way in hell we’re all going to fit in there!” Then he turned and stomped off like a child, toward the next bus stop. Our whole crowd crammed into the bus. We could have made room for the guy. I know that for sure because, not long after we passed him, the bus stopped at the next corner and picked up another ten people.

Okay, they just called my name. Time to look into bright lights and get told my eyes are crappy but okay.

Quote du jour

When it comes to controversy, after abortion, nothing beats guns and kids. — Rick Segal

I only met Floyd Westerman once, at Max Gail‘s house in Malibu. I didn’t know at the time that Floyd was a celebrity. Actually, I’m not sure if Floyd was a celebrity or not. I figure a celebrity is somebody whose name I know or whose face is instantly recognizable to me. Floyd’s wasn’t, even though I’d seen him in perhaps dozens of movies, usually playing either an Indian or the Indian. He was in The Doors, Dances With Wolves, Northern Exposure and L.A. Law, to name two examples each from the big and small screen. In fact, I didn’t know, until I read his obituary in the Boston Globe today, that he was also a singer, songwriter and musician who had also performed with Bonnie Raitt, Willie Nelson and Don Henley, among many others.

Mostly I remember him as a thoroughly good man who helped guide me through a tough patch in my life

He and some friends, including Max, were holding a sweat in a small dome lodge at Max’s house. I had never participated in a sweat before, and wasn’t eager to this time, since it combined my only two phobias: claustro and extreme heat. Sticking it out was very hard — so hard that I had to leave for awhile. But Floyd invited me back for a final round of hot rocks and steam, and to talk about what was in my heart.

I did, and Floyd’s guidance in response was warm, humane and deeply helpful. It truly turned me around and I’ll always appreciate it.

Guardian: Twenty-eight people ask Hugh MacLeod to be their friend each day. What’s so special about him?

Snow difference

radar.jpgWhen I was a kid growing up in New Jersey, just across the Hudson from New York, the best winter forecast to hear was one for snow — especially if it came with accumulations sufficient to close school and assure great sledding. Our street was a straight hill, and kids from all over the town would come to sled on it.

Alas, the far more typical forecast, and one we dreaded, was “Snow, mixed with and changing to rain.”

Last week we had our second big snow of Winter here in Boston, and it was everything I love about winters in the Northeast. While it stopped traffic cold and closed schools all over the place, it was perfect for kids sledding and coating everything in white. Best of all, it was heaven for our kid, whose prior 11 years were spent in California towns where snow almost never falls — and who now goes to a school he loves, behind which are hills and fields perfect for sledding and winter play.

Meanwhile, it rained in New York.

Now I’m up early and watching the latest winter storm. Snow in abundance is streaking down through the cone of light under the street lamp in front of the house. About an inch is already added to the six or so that still cover the houses across the street, like thick icing on cakes.

Alas, the forecast is icky:

  A mix of wintry precipitation this morning. Then periods of rain expected this afternoon. High near 35F. Winds E at 25 to 35 mph. 2 to 4 inches of snow expected. Winds could occasionally gust over 40 mph.

Meanwhile, the radar shows why Boston still beats New York for snowy winters. While Boston is still under white, New York is in a purple band between that white and a spread of green. The purple is ice. The green is rain.

Here’s hoping both those bands keep to the south.

[Later...] The snow turned to sleet, then hard rain. Now it’s all turning to slush. Awful.

[Later still...] By evening everything paved was under thick and soupy slush. It rained far longer than it had snowed. When we got back from a concert in Cambridge, a snowplow had widened the road, forming a wall of slush-saturated former snow across the driveway. Shoveling that clear brought back no shortage of memories. But y’know what? It was good exercise, and I really didn’t mind.

Quote du jour

What’s meta about life transcends what’s meta about electronics. Or what’s meta about online social networks or anything that’s less real than life itself. That’s the point made here. From MemoireVive, recorded at in Paris on Wednesday. And thanks to Joe Andrieu for the pointage.

Proof that some sports are still only fun

Here’s a video from CNN of old pal Bernie DeKoven at his Junk Fest in Redondo Beach last week. Bernie didn’t invent fun, but he’s done more to re-invent it than anybody. Enjoy.

New found ice

Speaking of ice and snow, that picture above is one in a series of shots I took out the window of the galley in the 777 yesterday as it passed into Canadian airspace after hours crossing nothing but the vast North Atlantic. This is the Labrador coastof the province now known as Newfoundland and Labrador. The patterns made by the icy water flowing past small islands along the coast was beautiful and fascinating. Look here and here to see the larger scope, and how some play between moving seas and moving winds creates these broad flow patterns that almost appear to have been made by a rake or a broom.

So I’m in the back of a bouncy and beat-up rogue van filled with bleary passengers bound for Cambridge, Arlington, Belmont, other towns north of the Charles, from Logan, where we were all plucked from the long taxi line by a short hustler who kept yelling “Downtown! Back Bay!” while pausing to collect travellers going to neither of those places. “Belmont? Get in! … Somerville? Get in!… Downtown! Back Bay!”

There were no taxis. It was 1:40am. The line was a couple hundred feet long, and this dude plucked us all out of the back of the line. I only had to wait a minute or so, and now here we are, slopping down Storrow Drive, which is semi-clear and wet, with piles of gray and sloppy plowings on either side, pushed up against ten inches of winter wonder stuff. The driver, who sounds Spanish to me, is listening to a country music station. It’s a mess here, but not an insurmountable one for resourceful folk, which they have everywhere I suppose, but which seem especially Bostonian to me at the moment.

We’re coming up on Harvard Square now. Here the snow is crushed to a lumpy gray layer of extra pavement. The wheels of the van spin now and then. But we seem to keep the traction going, and the city is pretty at what’s now 2am.

None of us asked for or were quoted a fee. Wonder what it wil be?

Somewhere up Mass Ave the driver starts looking for an all-hours curb market so he can buy some de-icing windshield washer fluid. I tell him I have some at my house, which is our next stop.

After I get him the fluid, which I am amazed to find easily in our basement, he fills the reservoir and I ask him about the fee.

“Thirty, thirty-five, whatever”, he said. I give him forty. Seems a fair price for a guy who does what the taxis won’t, at crazy hours. Much appreciated, and not just by me. I had only left Paris 34 hours earlier. We had people in the van who had been traveling from Singapore by way of Tokyo and Los Angeles, as well as by the D.C. plane that also brought me back.

Anyway, it’s now 2:32, fresh snow is falling outside the window of the attic office where I’m writing this, and I’m going to bed.

CDG bad

When it was built, Charles de Gaulle Airport‘s Terminal 1, with Paul Andreu‘s concrete-and-tubing reactor core styling (which inspired one of many famous scenes from Apple’s landmark 1984 ad) was an avante garde sensation. Now it’s a dump.

It was already getting old by the time I travelled frequently to it in the mid-90s. Near as I can tell, it has been unimproved since. (Though there is plenty of construction elsewhere at CDG.)

I gave myself the opportunity to visit this challenge when I dumbly thought Flight 0915 was at 9:15am, rather than at noon, as my itinerary would have told me if I had bothered to read it more carefully. Since there’s still some kind of strike on, and I was advised to leave early and avoid traffic, I arrived without incident at 6:30am, just in time to wait another two hours for United to open its counters. I killed that time looking for food and a comfortable place to sit. Turns out the food is in the basement level, where the decor is about as warm and contemporary as a sepulchre. I found a couple places serving petit dejeuner, but I’d had way too many croissants and the like over the last three days, so I opted instead for McDonalds, since I actually kinda like their sausage and egg McMuffins (and even though

The sign at McD’s said the place opened at 6:30. I stood there and waited until it finally oepned around 7:15 I’d guess. After chowing at a tiny table in a hallside dining area, I went upstairs to wait for United to open. The only seats there are these metal chairs with little holes punche in them. Standing and walking around with luggage were both more comfortable.

After inspecting the holes in the walls and the cracked tile on the floor I headed for the elevator and immediatley got stuck in it. Not sure what was broken, other than the electronics of the elevator and its absent floor moulding, which made it possible to see the concrete sides of the shaft. I got in, punched the button for the ground (departures) floor, the door closed and nothing happened. Then I hit the door open symbol, and still nothing happened. Much button pushing finally got some action, and I watched the shaft slide by as the elevator slowly rose to its destination, at which the doors, reluctantly, opened.

Anyway, now I’m in United’s Red Carpet Club here, which is actually much nicer than all the RC clubs in the U.S., other than the one at SFO’s International Terminal, which is still fresh.

Can’t wait to get back, which won’t happen until almost tomorrow, since United cancelled my connecting flight from Dulles to Logan, and I have to take a later one, cooling my heels first at another RC club , surely, at Dulles. See ya there.

Meanwhile, dig a few pictures from .

[4:08p, EST] Arrived at Dulles. There’s a big snowstorm in the Northeast and all the Boston flights are being cancelled. The question with mine is whether A) United can get a plane to make the trip; and B) Logan can keep the runway clear enough. Or so the people behind the counter say.

Ahead of me in one of the lines was a guy who complained mightily to the kind woman behind the counter about how United’s airbus planes flying to Denver are inadequate, overbooked, and so on. He wanted her to write down his complaint to give to her “superiors”. When my turn came, I told her, sincerely, that she had no “superiors”, and that I was sorry she had to endure this jerk.

It’s standard to complain about air travel, but in fact it’s just about freaking miraculous that anybody, much less companies as vast, damaged and bureaucratic as United, can ship people and cargo in metal tubes weighing hundreds or thousands of tons, powered by large tanks of combustible materials, at near-supersonic speeds at altitudes exceeding Everest’s, though many all kinds of weather — and do it constantly all around the world, 24/7/365, and actually make it boring in the process.

Over but undone

By some kind of glitch at the next-to last minute Dr. Weinberger got his excellent ass squeezed out of the LeWeb3 schedule, so we were all denied the opportunity to hear and see what I’m sure would have been a killer talk. Alas, we are still alive.

So, big regrets about that.

Meanwhile, kudos to Paolo Valdemarin for getting the outliner to work on my laptop. I had upgraded both the HD and the OS, and had permission issues. I much prefer blogging in the outliner, which I’ve been doing most of the time since 2000.

And the hallway talk continues, as we all wait for them to take down the wi-fi at some point.

Last night in Paris, then home. Can’t wait for both.

One drop in a good bucket.

The folks from are on stage now at LeWeb3. Great cause by, and for, some great people.

The shot above is one in a series shot last night walking from our hotel to the Louvre. It was cold and rainy, but Paris itself more than compensated for the discomforts, because Paris in the rain looks better than most cities in the sun. Such a great place. I forgot how much I missed coming here, which I used to do quite a bit, back in the mid-90s. A few bits of French even came back to me.

Anyway, I found a good connection here at (where the wi-fi is otherwise bad), so I’ve been uploading shots. Here’s the whole series, which will keep growing.

Heading shortly to Logan for a pair of Lufthansa flights that will land me in Paris by dawn tomorrow there. (Still yesterday, here, which is still today… reminds me of the old Bob & Ray soap opera parody: Today is Yesterday Tomorrow.) The cause is LeWeb3., where I’ll speak on Wednesday and listen the rest of the time. See ya there, if not sooner.

[Later...] Arrived in Frankfurt. Actually the time given above referred to the first leg, just completed. The Paris flight out of here is at 0840. Meanwhile I’m paying 18¢/minute for “roaming” on T-Mobile’s network, for which I already pay $29/month. I learned on the last trip that there are many T-Mobiles, and my deal is with just the U.S. one. Still, if your many carriers force customers to pay for “roaming” between them, at least give your carriers different names. Maybe D-Mobile and B-Mobile and U-Mobile. Meanwhile, paying this fee makes them all all F-Mobile to me.

A couple years ago a former high U.S. govenrment official — one whose job required meeting with nearly every member of Congress — made the best argument I have yet heard against any regulation of the Net. Or of anything technical. Though not veratim, this is essentially what he said: I can tell you that there are two things nearly every congressperson does not understand. One is economics. The other is technology. Now proceed.

That line comes to mind when I read House vote on illegal images sweeps in Wi-Fi, Web sites, by Declan McCullagh in CNet. It begins,

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a bill saying that anyone offering an open Wi-Fi connection to the public must report illegal images including “obscene” cartoons and drawings–or face fines of up to $300,000.

That broad definition would cover individuals, coffee shops, libraries, hotels, and even some government agencies that provide Wi-Fi. It also sweeps in social-networking sites, domain name registrars, Internet service providers, and e-mail service providers such as Hotmail and Gmail, and it may require that the complete contents of the user’s account be retained for subsequent police inspection.

In a follow-up post which includes an email dialog between Declan and one of the bill’s defenders, Declan added,

So what exactly does the SAFE Act do? It doesn’t mandate ongoing network surveillance. What it does require is that anyone providing Internet access who learns about the transmission or storage of information about illegal image must (a) register their name, mailing address, phone number, and fax number with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s “CyberTipline” and (b) “make a report” to the CyberTipline that (c) must include any information about the person or Internet address behind the suspect activity and (d) the illegal images themselves. (Note that some reporting requirements already apply to Internet access providers under current law.)

The definition of which images qualify as illegal is expansive. It includes obvious child pornography, meaning photographs and videos of children being molested. It also includes photographs of fully clothed minors in unlawfully “lascivious” poses, and certain obscene visual depictions including a “drawing, cartoon, sculpture, or painting.”

So, would this be obscene to a Phillies fan? How about a Mets fan? Can we even tell if the subject is a minor? It’s not like you can count the rings.

By the way, I’m looking for hard data on how much Net traffic, including search requests, is for junk, porn or both. I’ve heard many different numbers, including some that say the percentage of porn search requests alone is north of 70%. But I dunno.

For a sample, however, watch the scroll at Then imagine how much filtering you have to do if you’re Technorati or Google Blogsearch.

My Flickr DNA reveals that I have 383 photo sets among 17,437 photos, and just just one favorite photograph by anybody else, which is embarrasing.

(Thanks to Mike Warot for the pointer.)

Where would we be without OCD?

Thanks to LaughingSquid for pointage to 100 Quotes From 100 Movies Counting Down From 100.

So I’m supposed to be in Toronto today. Instead I’m back at home, writing from the Berkman Center. That’s because I forgot my passport. Used to be you could go to Canada and come back without a passport, but that hasn’t been the case ever since Canada has become a full-fledged foreign county, and not just one with prettier and more valuable money.

I forget lots of things in my life, but my passport was never one of them, until yesterday. As a result I not only inconvenienced the other folks in Toronto, but had to burn 25,000 miles to buy a ticket back to Boston. In the midst of that, I endured otherwise unhelpful interactions with people behind the counters at both United and Air Canada, on both of whose planes I was due to fly on the current itinerary. That unhelpfulness took the form of conflicting quotes on one-way Boston-Toronto ticket prices ranging from $700-something to $1500-something (U.S.), to list just two of the many prices I was ran out of patience trying to gather. That’s on top of the high ticket price I’d already paid for a trip I didn’t entirely end up taking.

Side question: Why would people behind airline counters at airports send you to “partner” airline counters, and/or their marginally-useful websites, rather than just give you the help you need? Yeah, we know the answer, but I just felt like asking it anyway.

On top of all that, I had to sit in seat 34A of a United 757, which is tied with 34F as the aft-most seat on the plane, as well as the most cramped, since the seat barely reclines at all. The upside was a relatively clear window, meaning I could get some nice photos, if I lucked into seeing anything other than clouds and darkness. Alas, the whole flight was clouded under the plane, except as the dark began to gather east of Lake Michigan. Still, I got a few nice shots in the gathering gloom as the plane began to descend toward Boston. Among those was the photoset linked to above — all featuring the Niagra River, with Niagra Falls marked by white mists. On the left, Canada; on the right, New York. I know they look similar, but sadly those who now traverse it must present their papers at the border.

Bonus link.

Chris Carfi explains Facebook’s Beacon changes. One frame:

Bonus quote, from (at Facebook garage in London last week): “To be told that Facebook is a ‘social utility’ which exists purely as a space to attract advertising revenue was both a) a stark truth and b) deeply, deeply upsetting.”

By the way, I do have hope for Facebook. It’s a young company. Nothing they do now is the last thing they’ll do. My hope is that they’ll realize that the relationships that matter most are with users rather than advertisers, and that if they want to beat Google at its own game, they’ll work toward obsoleting advertising by helping demand find supply, rather than vice versa.

And vice versa

Steve Gillmor is the Jean-Luc Godard of podcasting.

Riding wide

Heading into a heavy travel schedule. IIW in California, biz in Toronto, LeWeb3… So expect light blogging.

Meanwhile a few loose links on the outbound…

Tony Pierce is now blogging for the LA Times. So there’s hope. For the Times.