The Spellcheck Lament

Jason Sutter:
"Blogger spell check thinks 'micromanagement' should be replaced with 'necromancer.'"

"What it lacks in ability, it makes up for with personality."

Been there!

I always get a kick out of seeing pictures of places I've visited, but with more and more folks sharing photos on the web, I'm increasingly finding that I've taken almost the exact same shot as somebody else.

For example, this photo of Berlin from Una Knox:

Berlin photo

Here's mine, from October, 1999:

Berlin, 1999/10/09

Another one from Pushkar Phatak, of Chicago at night from an airplane:

Here's mine, from November, 2002:

Chicago from above

Then there's Blogger user Engst's shot from the Communist Statue Park near Budapest:


And mine, of Chandler, from April, 2000:

Chandler, near Budapest

Update, 2008/06/24: my friend Chase posted some similar thoughts.


On Books, Reading, and Ditch-Digging

Matt's recent post about books and reading mirrors my own experience:
"I love books, I love browsing stacks, I love libraries... I like collecting books, I always have a stack nearby to read, I love looking through picture books, and I love books even though I didn't really become much of a reader until the end of my college years."
Except for the part about college, I'm the same — I have two huge stacks to read here at my flat. One of the most satisfying things about finishing college, imho, was that I could read what I wanted when I wanted, without feeling guilty for skipping what had been assigned as homework.

Though I've only been keeping track of what I've read since July, 2000, my love for reading began in Middle School. My Dad had always been always an avid reader, and I recall hearing him utter this sagely advice on multiple occasions:
"If you don't start reading, you'll end up a ditch-digger."
The significance of this statement finally sunk in one day when we were driving up to Gramps' farm; I was looking out the window of the truck and saw the ditch going by on the side of the windy gravel road. I pictured myself shoveling mud and dirt and rocks out of that same ditch, day after day until the end of time, if I didn't start reading. I snagged Dad's copy of Jurassic Park as soon as we got home that day* and didn't look back.

Since then, I don't think I've ever *not* been reading. It got out of control earlier this year when I had like 6-7 books going, but I've decided to tone it down to just ~3. My new policy is:
Wrapping things up, Matt says:
"I'm going to take a holiday trip soon to a fairly remote location where there's not much to do besides read. I'm going to sit and read the only book I've wanted to read this year, and I have a feeling it might just be one of the last dead tree books I read for a long time."
I took that one to India with me and finished it just before our trek began — it's a damn good read. Ev dug it, and AdamB is digging it right now.

This Christmas holiday, aside from seeing family and friends back in Ohio, the thing I'm most looking forward to is reading. :-)

* I'm probably exaggerating here, and Dad, Mom and Jack probably recall my initial reading endeavors more clearly than me. Perhaps they could leave comments here if they've anything to add?


AaronSw on 'The News'

Aaron Swartz, All News is Bad News:
"I don’t read any news. No newspapers, no newsmagazines, no cable news outlet, no news websites. What’s the point?"

"Most of the news is completely useless. How does it help to know that Kobe Bryant is entering a formal plea or that the mother of the Osmond family has died? These things aren’t interesting, they aren’t important, and they aren’t useful. Reading through them everyday is like some sort of intellectual busywork. “Gee, I read a whole day’s worth of trivia. I’m so well-informed!”"


Best of Craigslist, Why I Hate Whole Foods:
"I hate the stupid -------- that can't pay attention to what they're doing when they're parking because they're too busy looking all conscious and hip in their biodiesel German car and shopping at Whole Foods and checking out all the counterculture wisdom on bumperstickers. It is NOT cool to just come to a complete stop in the middle of the street and ponder your life before you turn into the parking lot as though you've never been there before. I see you getting out of your car with your fabric Whole Foods shopping bag. Wake up and pay attention!"


Free TiVo!

I just got back from the TiVo giveaway at their HQ — as of 11am, the wait would have been 5 hours. I figure I can get way more than $20/hour of work done here than the $100 a box currently costs...

The 2004-12-17 TiVo giveaway

I left my donation with them, though. :)

Update: some more folks are blogging about it:


The Firefox Ad

The Firefox Ad

MacCarthy found me in the Firefox/New York Times ad — thanks mate!


Defensive Design

A little while ago I read 37Signals' Defensive Design for the Web. It's a fantastic little reference, covering a whole slew of web design no-no's — I'm noticing all sorts of user experience issues these days that just irk me.

For example, Medium Footwear's online store. This is the 'shoe size' dropdown for the Olive Traditionalist:

Medium Footwear shoe size dropdown

What does this mean? None of these are my size (12). Does this shoe only come in these sizes? Or does it reflect their current inventory? If it's simply out of stock, why can't I just order it so that it ships when it's re-stocked? I emailed their Customer Service folks to check since I dig the shoe; here's their response:
"Eric - The sizes on the website reflect our current inventory. So, we are currently out of the traditionalist in olive in that size. We will be receiving more traditionalists on 1/15/05, but only in the colors chocolate and black. We have discontinued the olive color. Let me know if you'd like me to send you some retailers in your area that may have it."
While an excellent response (thanks Sherri!), this entire process could have occurred on the site itself with some good old fashioned Defensive Design.

Don't get me started on the fact that their entire site is in Flash, which means none of their content is linkable...

Weblog Spam Getting Worse

An email-announcement from my webhost:
"We have seen a significant increase in weblog comment spam lately. Movable Type installations seem to be the worst hit, but Greymatter is also affected. The increase in comment spam has been causing a lot of server instability. We have begun blocking connections from the IP addresses we have found to be the origins of most of the spam, but that will most likely only work temporarily. We request that everyone with a weblog application installed please do what you can to reduce the likelihood of your site being a target. Install any applicable anti-spam plugins or disable comments on your weblog altogether. Let us know if you have any questions."


This one's for Goldman

More whale

Surfpulse reports on the whale carcass Bethany and I encountered at Pillar Point (Mavericks) this weekend:
"A large whale carcass washed up on the beach that's inside of the lagoon at Maverick's on the evening/morning of Saturday/Sunday, December 11/12, 2004..."

"All of the surfers left the water on Saturday when they realized that several white sharks were feeding on the dead whale that was drifting towards the peak from the north. Overnight, the carcass made its way into the lagoon, and it washed up onto the east end of the beach, at the foot of the breakwater by Sunday morning. Besides the strong, unpleasant odor on the beach, the dead whale is likely to be attracting more sharks than usual to the area."
[via Coastsider]


Only in [God Bless] America

"I saw this story on BoingBoing - Wal-Mart sells a CD with 'fuck' in its lyrics, Maryland family buys the album for daughter, Maryland family seeks "damages up to $74,500 for each of the thousands of people who bought the music."

"It's a great American moment, really. The combination of puritanical outrage coupled with down-home litigiousness."



[also posted to the BiodieselBlog and EnviroTech]

Last week I heard from Adam Stein of TerraPass via email:
"The idea behind TerraPass is simple. TerraPass allows individual consumers to tap into the growing market for carbon emission credits traded by large companies such as DuPont and IBM. These markets are structured in the same way as as the markets for sulfur emissions that were so successful in reducing acid rain."
I promptly read through their entire site — the concept is fascinating. Their FAQ sums it up nicely:
Isn't buying a TerraPass essentially just a donation to preserve the environment?

Let's put that question in another context. Is cleaning up after your dog essentially just a donation? Is picking up your trash in the woods essentially just a donation? Cars make a mess; even if not as visibly as your dog. Clean up after your car.

Does TerraPass physically modify my car?

No. TerraPass is a market mechanism that tips the economic balance in favor of efficiency and renewable energy. This mechanism results in exactly counterbalancing the carbon emissions of your driving, without modifying your car physically.

Choice, and Photos on the Web

"A friend of mine accused me of "selling out," how I'm using Flickr when I previously worked for Yahoo! Photos. I don't think of it like that - Flickr has some awesome web services and RSS feeds that fits the needs of this website perfectly. Yahoo! Photos simply has a different demographic. Does Flickr sell 6x6" keepsake ceramic tiles with adorable children on them? I don't think so. Needless to say, I go to Y!Photos for all my ceramic-tile-with-white-baby needs."


Scott Rosenberg posted a delightful interview with Joel Spolsky over at Salon. (yes, that Joel). Like Paul Graham, Joel writes brilliant essays about software and its development, subjects which never fail to fascinate me. Joel also knows AdamB from their time at Microsoft — I'll have to ask Adam if the thing about the guy on the airplane is true or not...


What is SBC smoking?

Does anybody know what this is all about?
Project D.U.
"It's like being served breakfast in bed except there's no food."

We've cooked up a FREE Blog Reader that may taste like your average rss tool -- it's definitely not. It's preloaded with some of the best blogs on the web so you get up-to-the-minute posts from great sites covering Music, Sports, Entertainment, Travel, Gaming and Fashion.

Plus, it's customizable so you can build your own channels, add new blogs and other feeds, and create your own favorites icons. Yeah, you can change the color too.

The Project D.U. Reader has a custom-designed interface and an editor, me, who can point you to the best posts in the network.

No shirt. No shoes. No spyware.
It's... hideous.


iSight Equivalent for Windows?

I'm in the process of hooking up my family members with these so we can do this. Unfortunately they don't all have Macs, so I'm trying to find the iSight's equivalent (is that even possible?) for Windows. AOL is recommending Logitech's QuickCam Zoom, but they've got others available too.

Epinions gives the QCZ 1.5/5 stars, while Amazon users give it 4/5.


Anybody have any suggestions for me?



A little while ago my summer intern dropped by to say Hi (she was on Thanksgiving break), and mentioned something interesting — Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake is being made into a movie by Mira Nair.

Nair, of course, is the amazing director behind Salaam Bombay and Monsoon Wedding (among others). And The Namesake is a fascinating and engaging book I listened to via Audible a few months ago, before going to India.

Some googling confirms the rumor:
Can't wait to see how it comes out!


Evan Martin:
"I cut my hair really short on Saturday and I have to say: I don't care if I look like a cancer patient (or Michael Stipe, which I've heard twice since), it feels so clean and comfortable it's more than worth it."


Mad Props

I spent most of the weekend working on a site for my cousin Sarah. These tools made the process way easier than it used to be:


Quotes from BenH

Hammersley has some fantastic quotables in his latest Guardian piece:
"…so why has the podcasting meme spread so far, so quickly? The reasons are simple. Like weblogs, the dismal content really isn’t the point…"
"TiVo units in America and Sky Plus in the UK, have shown that the idea that programming has to be consumed in the order and time that the broadcaster assigns it, is nonsense."



"What Firefox has done is shown competitors that giant like Microsoft can be beaten, without venture capital, an IPO or a marquee brand name. All you need is a good product, and consumers will find it."
Right on — GetFirefox!

iPod Photo

MacWorld Editors Blog, iPod Photo: Color does make a difference:
"Setting up a photo slideshow from the iPod couldn't be simpler. The slideshow settings are straightforward, allowing you to choose music to play, repeat, shuffle, transitions, etc. After you're done with the settings, plug the iPod into your TV using the included AV cables from Apple, choose your photo album and click play."
Agreed — instead of lugging my Powerbook & associated cables with me to Philly for Thanksgiving, I simply copied my India photos to my iPod and brought it instead. When I had all my unsuspecting aunts/uncles/cousins/parents/grandparents rounded up in the living room, I plugged it into the TV and showed them my month in India. Worked brilliantly.

Great work, iPod team!


America and Design

Paul Graham's written another outstanding essay, Made in USA.

Check it out.


iTunes Wishlist

Ever since the iTMS launched I've been wanting a way to queue up music, Amazon wishlist-style, for purchase later. I'm not always in the mood to buy/hear new music, but with a wishlist I could at least keep track of 'stuff to check out' should the mood strike. With each successive iTunes release I've wondered to myself, "where the heck is that wishlist feature?!"

Turns out it's been there for a year and a half. I was expecting it to be server-side, a button or setting somewhere in the store's interface, but it's actually a preference you must enable:

iTunes Preferences

That's just backward. Wishlists/queues should be server-side, centrally hosted, syndicatable and externally-linkable. David Galbraith suggests more...



AudioScrobbler FAQ:
What is the relationship between Audioscrobbler and Last.fm?

Last.fm is a 'profile radio station'. It adapts what songs it plays based on your musical profile. Last.fm is run by the same team that run Audioscrobbler, your profile and login details should work on both sites. Last.fm radio is available via Audioscrobbler user pages, look for the button.
I just signed up — looks wickedly cool so far.


City of God

City of God
Reading Asha's post on City of God reminded me that I haven't yet written about it here. She's right, the accompanying documentary will leave you more stunned than the film. (get it on Netflix). But check out what Nat Friedman did while he was Rio — upon seeing how fascinated the favela kids were at seeing themselves in his digicam's LCD, he and his hostel-mates bought every disposable camera they could find and passed them out to the kids the following morning:
"The return rate was pretty good; many of the kids were waiting in the street from 7am to noon for us to pick up their cameras. We got 26 back out of maybe 32 we handed out. This amounted to 632 photos. Many of them are excellent, especially for someone who's probably never used a camera before, and with a cheap disposable. Some are sad, some are funny."
This is similar to what Xeni did when she was in Guatemala. Check out the rest of Nat's photos.

Awareness, not vanity



Quality Podcasting

As Ottmar mulls creating a subscription-based service for his music, Podcasting enters the equation:
"It would be sooo cool to Podcast music for our subscription service. Especially if one could build an authorization process into the Podcast software. No need to come to our web site... just set your podcast software to look at our site and automatically download the latest music files."
I haven't done any Podcasting (producing or consuming) yet because I'm already sorted in that department. But I'd definitely sign up for fresh OL.

Awesome URL schemes?

Pete's wondering about webapps with delightful URL schemes, like Flickr:
del.icio.us comes to mind...
... though usability of the domain itself is debatable. (Personally, I really dig it. If you can't be bothered to figure out what comes between del and us, you shouldn't be using the service)

Anybody know of any other shining examples of URL usability?


Eminem 'n Apple

This email just arrived from Apple/iTunes, promoting a whole slew of Eminem stuff — the new album, the old albums, exclusive tracks, etc. This is entertaining because Eminem is currently suing Apple.

But even funnier are the broken image links in the email:

<img src="http://ibrator.apple.com/~quarkx/email/images/
emimenemail_top.jpg" alt="Eminem - iTunes New Release, Encore" height="285" width="413" border="0">

A staging server, perhaps? Does this link work for any of you folks inside Apple? Heh.

My Sister is Hilarious

She's in Barcelona right now studying Spanish, and is apparently feeling the 'gosh I need to blog more' pain. Here's her latest update. These two bits had me cracking up:
"We recently saw “Shall we Dance” with Richard Gere, J. Lo, and Susan Sarandan. This was indeed a great chick flick and the dancing! I am now interested in ball room dancing, so if any males are known of that want to be my dancing partner, let me know! I am available, I don’t know how to dance, I’m great fun, and of course will be back in the United States in late December."
"So, that is a tiny update of the happenings of Natalie in the BCN. Of course lots more happens, but shit, I am out doing things, I haven’t been blogging. You can all sleep well tonight, SHE’S BACK AND BLOGGING."
See you at Christmas, Nat. :)




Caterina sez, "IM and RSS make things easy." I definitely concur — while I'm working I often have 7-8 tabs open in Adium, and am subscribed to over 300 feeds in Bloglines. But apparently she's the only one at Flickr who uses feeds. Fascinating, given that Flickr offers feeds for, well, everything.


iTunes Hackin'

Bummed about iPodDownload being disabled in iTunes 4.7?

No worries - you can fix it by opening iTunes with a hex editor and changing a single letter.

Maybe Cory'll see this and stop making so much noise about it...

Update: He did.

[via The Unofficial Apple Weblog]

California Ballot Propositions

We have something like 20+ 16 propositions here on the California State Ballot, and the bureaucrat-speak used to describe them is pretty confusing to me. Fortunately some articulate folks have written up their views on them; here's a short list:
Feel free to add more via the Comment Form.



Mike in Vietnam:
"I spent all day trying to figure out why my account kept showing that I had no minutes left even though I had spent 200.000 dong earlier in the morning updating my account. Later I realized that I had not checked to confirm that my phone was actually updated while in the store. Clever trick. Employee acts like he is adding minutes. (But he is not). I pay. Then he hands me the phone, says I have new minutes, and then I walk out of the store, hop on a motorbike and go to work. When I get to work, oops, my account is not working. No minutes. I was duped."
This is one of the things that always irks me about traveling in the Third World — as a conspicuous honkey foreigner, one is likely being deceived and tricked in just about every transaction one makes. Poverty drives people to dishonesty; they're fully aware they're doing it, and that it's wrong, but they do it in order to eat, to feed their families.

As Ghandi said, "Poverty is the worst form of violence."


Mosh. Vote.

Danah's right, Eminem's new video really hits home:
"Regardless of what anyone things of Eminem, i've always loved his willingness to fight, to be resistant to contemporary society even while being framed as mainstream. This video, put out by the Guerrilla News Network shows the anger and frustration of poor and marginalized populations, upset with Bush for the way that he's destroyed the fabric of this country. It is a call to action, urging people to get out and vote. It is a rhythmic composition of completely radical and political rhetoric. It is a call to action for youth and for the disenfranchised. I sure hope that the youth get out to vote this time."
Check it out:
Eminem - Mosh


John Battelle:
"For some reason, I grow uneasy if I have more than ten emails unanswered in my inbox. I'll stay at my computer late, I'll forego creature comforts, if it means I can get the message queue down to ten or less before I sleep."
Me too — my inbox has been hovering ~ 40 ever since returning from India and it's driving me nuts!


Coalition of the... willing

Lie Girls is hysterical — "you forgot Poland!"

Thanks Chuck!


It's Drafty

FreewayBlogger: Stop the Draft Day Pictures

My favorites are, "Draft Beer, Not People" and "Bush/Orwell '84"


Delicious Monster's Library app looks extremely cool — it should be part of iLife... I wonder how long it'll be before Apple either buys them or pulls a Watson?


Votin' fer Kerry

Dom wrote a song about it... wanna hear it?

My favorite line:
Vote for John Kerry and John Edwards.
Instead of being backwards we'll be going aheadwards!
Great work, Dom!

An IM conversation...

... with Ms. O'Brien:

iChatting with Willo

But she didn't come rb. Maybe this is the online equivalent of, "I have to go to the bathroom... <gone>"?



Andre Torrez:
"I knew this was going to be a good day.
Netflix releases RSS feeds."

"I think they should do more to educate people about RSS though. I think Blogger has done the best job at that with their styled Atom feeds."
Props go to Shellen for the idea, Sutter for the CSS, SteveJ for the engineering, and Biz for the Help article.


MattH on Ev

Matt Haughey says some very kind words about Ev's departure; I especially liked this bit:
"... And after slogging through year after year of struggle, Ev pulled through, took it to Google, and really raised it to a whole other level. Blogger is now a juggernaut, and rightfully so."

"I believe Blogger really has changed the world. It has given a voice to millions and every day seems to seep further into popular culture..."


... and the propagation thereof.

Watch this video. (5.1 MB)

[via BoingBoing]



Our current VP and our next VP
[via MBostock.]


The Basics

Learning to code can be surprisingly entertaining:
#! /usr/bin/python

resp = raw_input("What's your name? ")
print "Hi, %s, nice to meet you." % resp

G5:~ eric$ python yadda.py

What's your name?
Hi Eric, nice to meet you.

G5:~ eric$


The Age of the Essay, in which Paul Graham explains how the majority of High School English composition instruction is, well, the result of a series of mistakes...
"The most obvious difference between real essays and the things one has to write in school is that real essays are not exclusively about English literature. Certainly schools should teach students how to write. But due to a series of historical accidents the teaching of writing has gotten mixed together with the study of literature. And so all over the country students are writing not about how a baseball team with a small budget might compete with the Yankees, or the role of color in fashion, or what constitutes a good dessert, but about symbolism in Dickens."



Crazy Apple Rumors, Application Upgrade Allows User To Achieve Nirvana:
"BBEdit user Matthew Sadowski achieved total nirvana earlier today after downloading, installing and using Bare Bones Software's latest upgrade to the popular text editing application. Somewhere between using the documents drawer and the built-in HTML Tidy Tool, a bright, white light bathed over Sadowski and his consciousness became one with the universe."


"'This is bullshit,' said Keith Marsh, a college buddy of Sadowski's. 'Matt used to be a great guy. He used to like to play video games and drink beer and cruise for chicks. OK, we never cruised for chicks, but he used to be fun to be around! Now it's all... "ooh, guess what the unlimited nature of existential being is?" Hell if I know.'"
Funny, I bought the upgrade as soon as I got home from India and this hasn't happened to me yet either. Sigh.

[via Daring Links]

Himalayan Pundits

Mike in Vietnam:
"Over fried squid and a plate of greens, my poor friend had to listen to me rant and rave and theorize and bullshit 'till she was too tired to respond. During the course of the evening, I managed to formulate a Mid-East peace plan, discuss the political climate in Haiti, and quote Aristotle. So yeah, I was talking out my arse. Half the time I didn't even know what I was sayin' but I'm an opinionated man so I just kept on talking. Next time, perhaps my friend shall be wise enough to stick a beer in front of me to shut me up."
This is exactly the kind of nonsense we seemed to find ourselves engaged in every night while trekking. If Tom (the lone conservative) hadn't been along, it would have just been a bunch of preaching to the choir...


Something Daring

The Coolest T-Shirt Ever Made goes to 20,000 ft:


Where: Stok Kangri, Ladakh, Northern Indian Trans-Himalaya. More shots from the summit are available, as is a panoramic 6.4 MB/27-second video clip.



Note the Hipster Bingo Sushi/Jesus fish t-shirt
(originally uploaded by evhead)
As some of you may have already seen, Ev just announced that he's moving on. Ya know it's funny — I've been reading EvHead (his blog) for ~5 years, when he and the Pyra gang first released Blogger. I was a nerdy college kid at the time, who read every issue of Wired I could get my hands on and dreamed about living and working in Silicon Valley some day. Then hipsters like Ev and Meg and Matt and PB started blogging, and I started reading them. Religiously. I mean, they were the people doing the innovating on the web, and were actually talking about it as they were doing it!

Fast forward a few years to February, 2003 when Ev announced that Google had acquired Blogger. I was sitting in an Internet café in Bangkok catching up on tech news, freshly back from a month in Burma and a week at the Vipassana Center in northern Thailand. The news was a huge shock, and as soon as I got home I wrote KatieB (who'd been working at Google for a while already) about open positions on the Blogger team. The stars must have been in alignment or something, because I started a few weeks later.

I felt like a nervous groupie the day I started. "OMG, I'm gonna meet Ev! I hope he doesn't fire me when finds out I jumped ship to MT the day it was released..." (I finally came back to the fold in 5/2004). He turned out to be a totally cool, down-to-earth, funny guy — an exciting person to just be around. It's difficult to describe how incredibly fortunate I feel to have gotten to work with him over the past year and a half. He's always been receptive, encouraging and helpful with whatever I've been working on.

While I'll definitely miss his presence around the office, I'm truly excited for him. He's finally gonna have time to do some traveling, which he's soooo gonna dig. And read, and think, and plan his next great adventure with all the wisdom and insight from the past six years of hard work.

Cheers Ev — thanks for everything!

More folks: Biz, CW, Danah, Matt Haughey, Ovidiu Predescu, Sarah Hatter, Shellen, SteveJ, Sutter, Tony Pierce | Metafilter, Technorati


Flickr Feature Requests

I absolutely adore flickr, and thus have a number of feature requests directly proportional to my love for it. (and I'm sure Stewart *hearts* me for this — I send them his way daily.)

First, image exclusion for badges, feeds, etc. When I want to make a post here that includes an image (Napoleon, for example), I send the image to Flickr so I can link to it there. This way I don't have to deal with filenames and paths and img tags and such. (And I think an image on Flickr is better than an image not on Flickr, because it can be tagged and exist as part of a greater whole.) But as soon as the image is uploaded, it appears in Flickr badges and feeds, and might even be spliced into other feeds. Visitors and readers end up seeing the image more than once, which isn't intended. There could be a tag ("exclude" perhaps?), which when used automatically filters images from syndication, but still keeps them public. It'd also make for fun browsing.

Second, Get Code in addition to blogging. I want to use Blogger's rocking WYSIMWYG editor for composing posts, and easily copy and paste chunks of Flickr href and img code into it for adding images to those posts. Right now I tell Flickr to post them to a blogspot.com test blog, then View Source on the MuleBlog and copy and paste the relevant bits. I'd like a "Get Code" button in Flickr, which lets me pick a template then shows me the code...

Thanks gang!


Napoleon Dynamite:
Napoleon Dynamite

My cousin Ben, 2001-07-21:
Ben & Me

(re: Mary Ellen's post on the subject)



Wow, it sure feels good to be back, both at home *and* at work. And yeah Biz, I did put the fire out — thanks for the guestblogging.

I just finished uploading a heap of photos to Flickr — they'll likely provide lots of blogging fodder for the forseeable future... here's the view from the top of Stok Kangri, 20,000+ feet (or 6000+ meters if you swing that way):


Ladakh: Day 19

Mountains & Monasteries itinerary:

"This is a buffer day in case of flight delays getting to Delhi."

Ah, the Buffer Day. It's always good to have the Buffer Day. In fact, I propose that we replace Tuesday with Buffer Day. That way, you can struggle through Monday, take the Buffer Day to reassess, glide through hump day, work from home on Thursday, and then whew—TGIF. This is good. If we've learned anything from Eric's trek through the mountainous regions of a far away land it's the importance of having a Buffer Day. Okay, this is my last guest post. I'm done here (as soon as I paste my adsense code into all of Eric's blog templates).


Ladakh: Day 18

Mountains & Monasteries itinerary:

"We take a morning flight to Delhi to stay at the luxurious Imperial Palace in Connaught Place where we'll have the afternoon to explore."


Ladakh: Day 17

Mountains & Monasteries itinerary:

"Today we take a pleasant hike down the Lower Stok Valley, a beautiful gorge of geological beauty with upturned layers of green and red and occasional herds of Blue Sheep dancing across the precarious cliff sides opposite the trail. We'll also pass under the ruins of old Stok fortifications set high above the trail that once prevented invaders from coming down through the narrow valley. We make our way down to the village of Stok and return to Leh, a delightful end to a fantastic journey."


Ladakh: Day 16

Mountains & Monasteries itinerary:

"An early morning start is essential for those eager to reach the summit. In late summer, the route is usually free of snow and a trail leads us up to the ridge at about 19,000 feet. From here it's a relatively short hike/scramble to the summit at just over 20,000 feet! There are commanding views of Kang Yatze to the Southeast, the Ladakh range that we crossed over to the North, and the entire Eastern Karakorams. We return back to our basecamp and celebrate our efforts."


Ladakh: Day 15

Mountains & Monasteries itinerary:

"We move a short distance up to our high camp. An important day for anyone wishing to summit Stok Kangri. Sleeping higher helps us to acclimatize as well as shorten the ascent for tomorrow. Turning the corner into the Upper Stok Valley, we get our first full view of Stok Kangri. The ascent route follows the left skyline."


Ladakh: Day 14

Mountains & Monasteries itinerary:

"Today is a rest day at Base Camp where there are opportunities to explore amongst this rugged alpine landscape. While our destination peak is out of view, our basecamp is surrounded by snow-capped summits including Palchen Kangri. We'll also keep our eyes peeled as there are Blue Sheep in the area. And where there are Blue Sheep, there usually haunts the elusive Snow Leopard."


Ladakh: Day 13

Mountains & Monasteries itinerary:

"For those staying on to visit the Stok Kangri region, we drive to Matho and begin the trek to Base Camp. (long day of about 7hrs)"


Ladakh: Day 12

Mountains & Monasteries itinerary:

"Today we continue over 2 more small passes in this valley following a ridge — a gradual and lovely walk to the pastures of Gyamsa (village above Leh) and either drive back to Leh (30 mins) or continue walking to Leh where you end in Changspa. The total walking will be approximately 7 hrs and not too difficult."


Ladakh: Day 11

Mountains & Monasteries itinerary:

"The big day! Leaving the pastures we keep climbing to the snow line and moraine to the top of the Lasermo La pass at an incredible altitude of 17,700ft! The effort put into the climb is rewarded with commanding views of the Eastern Karakoram mountains to the North, the Stok Range to the South, and the sweeping valleys on both sides below. There could be snow at the pass and pack animals may need to be unloaded and loads ferried by our crew. From the pass, we'll descend the Phyiang valley to our camp at 14,750 ft. Average: 6 - 7 hours walking."


Ladakh: Day 10

Mountains & Monasteries itinerary:

"After a day of rest and acclimatization, we're ready to move up to the base camp of Lasermo La. The gradual climb across the pastures is again carpeted with flowers and follows a stream to our camp for the night at 14,750 ft. Average: 5 hours walking."


Ladakh: Day 9

Mountains & Monasteries itinerary:

"A day set aside for resting and acclimatization, we keep our camp pitched in Brok Yogma. For the more active and adventurous, there will be an opportunity to make an excursion to the seldom visited peaks of Brok Gongma and Sniu Sumdo."


Ladakh: Day 8

Mountains & Monasteries itinerary:

"Today we continue gradually up past the beautiful summer pastures of Hundar Dok River filled with flowers, passing through the tiny settlements of Wacham, Dokyogma and Drokygogma. The villagers of Hundar Dok are known for being very friendly. We then follow the Thanglasgo river to camp at Brok Yogma (13,775 ft). Average: 5 hours walk."


Ladakh: Day 7

Mountains & Monasteries itinerary:

"From Hundar, we take to the trail following the river. After crossing a bridge, we climb gently up a narrow and impressive gorge until we reach a long plateau. At the confluence of 2 streams is the small Hamlet of Skarchen (12,500 ft) consisting of shepherds' huts where we'll make our camp for the evening. Average: 5 hours walk."


Ladakh: Day 6

Mountains & Monasteries itinerary:

"Our destination today is Hundar (1hr) and we visit Deskit village and its monastery en route. In Hundar, we'll meet with our camp crew in the beautiful camping grounds and spend our first night in tents. There are sand dunes nearby which we can visit with the possibility of doing a short camel ride on the unique Bactrian (double humped) camels."

Now that's what I'm talking about! Busting out the tents. And the camels? I think this trip just got kicked up a notch.


Ladakh: Day 5

Mountains & Monasteries itinerary:

"Today we travel over the Khardung La — 18,360 ft, the highest motorable pass in the world, into the fertile Nubra Valley having fairly large villages, well kept monasteries and surrounded by snowcapped peaks. Fed by the Shyok River, this wide valley with an average altitude of about 10,000 ft has a warmer climate than the Indus Valley of Leh. Falling on the ancient caravan silk trade route to Central Asia, the village of Kyagar and Panamic were important stopover points with Panamic being the last point to stock before the long journey across the high passes to Central Asia. Our destination for the day is the village of Kyagar where we'll have a chance to visit the Samstaling monastery."

These descriptions sound like the ones from Mission Impossible. Should I post them or will they self-destruct? In any case, I'm glad Eric has that helicopter rescue insurance. We should all have that, really.


Ladakh: Day 4

Mountains & Monasteries itinerary:

"We'll spend the morning visiting the Alchi monastery, famed for its beautiful and intricate frescoes from the Kashmiri period. We can see a marked difference in the architectural and painting styles between this monastery and the ones we visited yesterday which, in an experiential way, will help us to understand part of the rich history of this incredible area."

I hope Eric set his Talking Panda to speak Koshur.


Ladakh: Day 3

Mountains & Monasteries itinerary:

"We'll spend the morning visiting the famous Thiksey and Hemis Buddhist monasteries with their colorful Tibetan-style paintings and 2-story sitting Buddha temples. After lunch we drive to Alchi, one of the oldest surviving monasteries from a period when Kashmir was at the center of Mahayana Buddhism. We'll have time to stroll around the surrounding area and take in some local culture."

Oh man, now Eric is going to be able to say things like, "Alchi? Heh! I spent a week there one night."


Ladakh: Day 2

Mountains & Monasteries itinerary:

"Today we have a short, early morning flight to Leh, the capital of Ladakh, where we will spend the day resting and acclimatizing with a chance to stroll around this ancient and historic town."

So Eric is strolling around an ancient historic town somewhere on a remote continent. It's not like I can't do stuff too. For example, I could take the dog for a walk right now if I want. I even have little biodegradable baggies made exclusively to bring along on such an event should other events occur during the main event. So to speak.


Ladakh: Day 1

Hey, this is Biz Stone speaking italic. Eric asked me to guestblog for him and it seems he was under the mistaken impression that I was just going to publish his itinerary as it happens. Sure, I'll do that, but as long as I have all his secret codes and full access to this blog as well as all his other blogs, I might as well mix it up. So expect some drastic changes around here beginning with the template design. Kidding! I joke because I kid. It's a wonderful thing. Okay, here's Eric:

Mountains & Monasteries itinerary:

"The group arrives in Delhi and gathers in the hotel for a briefing and a rest."

Biz here again. I'm sorry but Eric's post sounds like the TiVo description for a new show on the Discovery Channel. I don't write them folks, I'm just the guestblogger. Rest assured, he probably has that big Case-adilla™ grin on his face getting ready for the adventure he's about embark upon.


Manual Override

I'm gonna be doing fun stuff for the next ~3 weeks, but I'll likely be offline for most (if not all) of it. Unfortunately Blogger can't (yet) auto-publish future-dated posts, so Biz is gonna lend a hand and guest-blog for me. Unlike the last time I had a guest-blogger though, it'll look like I'm actually posting—if all goes as planned, each day's itinerary will appear here as the trek progresses. Alas that Tiger isn't out yet!

Anyway, the text is from the itinerary Zach emailed us, with this disclaimer:
"The following is a day-to-day description of the Nubra Valley Trek detailing the sights and destinations we plan to encounter. Please take it only as a guideline as circumstances may occasionally dictate a change in the itinerary."


Another Brick

Friday afternoon we were invited to see a Pink Floyd cover band at a bar in Hyderabad, later that evening. "An Indian Pink Floyd cover band," I wondered? This I had to see. While there, we got to chat with some other folks about Rock 'n Roll—apparently there's a huge cover band scene here. Who knew?

The group playing was great, except that the vocalist wasn't so hot with some of the more subtle tunes. We later discovered that he's the lead singer for another band, a thrash metal group. Heh.

Later on in the weekend the Sunday paper arrived, and somebody came across this article in the Society section, complete with a writeup of the show we saw. Double-heh! One funny thing about the show was the bar's layout — there was no stage. The path the servers used to get to the storage room went right through the band, so workers were constantly walking between the singer and the rest of the group carrying drinks, etc. Nobody seemed to mind...


I just love reading Paul Graham's writing. He has a way of articulating a given topic that not only gets my mind racing, but also has me constantly laughing out loud. I brought Hackers and Painters with me to India, and finished Chapter 4 this morning. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to be available online, but here's a great snippet:
"Data is by definition easy to copy. And the Internet makes copies easy to distribute. So it is no wonder companies are afraid. But, as so often happens, fear has clouded their judgement. The government has responded with draconian laws to protect intellectual property. They probably mean well. But they may not realize that such laws will do more harm than good."

"Why are programmers so violently opposed to these laws? If I were a legislator, I'd be interested in this mystery—for the same reason that, if I were a farmer and suddenly heard a lot of squaking coming from my hen house one night, I'd want to go out and investigate. Hackers are not stupid, and unanimity is very rare in this world. So if they're all squaking, perhaps there is something amiss."


Yesterday morning when I got to the office, three of the Indian ladies here came over and tied these bracelets around my wrist. Apparently, all of India is currently celebrating Raksha Bandhan, "a festival meant to commemorate the abiding ties between siblings of opposite sex." (Hi Natalie!) They put them on all the other expat guys as well, but I think I'm the only one who got three... <grin>

Here's UCLA's Department of Social Sciences on the matter:
"The word raksha signifies protection, and bandhan is an association signifying an enduring sort of bond; and so, when a woman ties a rakhi around the wrist of her brother, she signifies her loving attachment to him. He, likewise, recognizes the special bonds between them, and by extending his wrist forward, he in fact extends the hand of his protection over her."
I can dig that.



On the way to Golconda Fort this weekend, we drove through a small enclave of Muslim houses and shops. Gopal, my (Hindu) driver waved his hand around pointing at the houses and people. "Muslim people bad. They kill Hindus for hundreds of years." Sigh.



Where am I right now? The rumors are true—Hyderabad, Andra Pradesh, India. My pictures are here, more of the city (props to Google Images) are here. I don't really feel like I'm "traveling" just yet, since I'm working from our office for the majority of each day. (and being fed by amazing cooks and driven around by courteous drivers and being cleaned up after by smiling staff... more on that later). Fortunately I'm here this weekend, so I'll be able to do some site-seeing with some of the gang.

Where am I going? September 1 I fly Air Sahara back to Delhi to rendezvous with Zach (far right) and his Dad. September 2 we head to Agra to see Taj Mahal, then back to Delhi on the 4th.

September 5 we fly to Leh to begin our trek in Ladakh. Originally I was only to do the first two weeks, skipping the Stok Kangri extension. But as the trip neared, my dormant travel bug decided to wake up... "So you should do the extension and stuff because you're already out & up there (the remote Himalaya), and you might not ever be there again. And there's the possibility of summiting a 20,000 ft. peak!" [ego is stroked.] So Stok it is.

Assuming all goes well, we fly back to Delhi September 22, and I head home the 24th.


Blast from the Past

Via David Rutan, here's a John Markoff piece from the 1982-09-06 edition of InfoWorld, about my Aunt and the company (RIP) she founded. That's my cousin Sarah using the Apple IIe. In email Ann said, "This article led to a contract with [an unnamed large computer company] that doubled our financial base and put us on the map." Far out!

Here are pages 1 & 2, and here's the new company she's starting.



August 22nd:
• Air Canada #756, Leave SFO 11:50am - Arrive Toronto 7:39pm
• Air Canada #51, Leave Toronto 9:30pm - Arrive Delhi 9:00pm Aug 23

August 24th:
• Jet Airways #9W 827, Leave Delhi 05:50 - Arrive Hyderabad 07:50

September 1st:
• Air Sahara #S2 136, Leave Hyderabad 09:55 - Arrive Delhi 11:55

September 19th:
• Air Canada #52, Leave Delhi 11:30pm - Arrive Toronto 5:30am Sep 20

September 20th:
• Air Canada #757 Leave Toronto 8:30am - Arrive SFO 11:00am

Note: the Sep19&20 flights will be changed to Sep24, and there are Delhi <—> Leh (Ladakh) flights in there on Sep5&22.



Lessons: India

"Our streets and our stations are thronged with people from a thousand different backgrounds with whom it is practically impossible to avoid conversation. During the conversation you may find that your money has been stolen, or you may find you have been speaking to a sage. Both experiences are considered educational."

—Gita Mehta, Karma Cola



Excellent, I knew Ottmar would take the bait!
(originally uploaded by o2ma)
"Let's take it one at a time. Milan in September is a track only available on the Australian version of Euphoria and in our Listening Lounge. It was inspired by a morning in Milan, I believe it was in 1992, waking up at the Diana Majestic Hotel... Mind you, it wasn't a Sheraton Hotel then. No flash, just old and lovely. From the Diana nothing in Milan is too far. One can walk to the Duomo, one can walk to the shopping centre and one can get about anywhere in Milan with relative ease."
Read on...

Update: Two stories about Istanbul, one from Mexico and one from Brazil!

Truth via comedy

If you haven't seen this episode of The Daily Show yet, get thee to the BitTorrent site, download the latest version, then snag the torrent and watch it!


Behind the Music

Backstage pass to Ottmar's show at the Saratoga Mountain Winery
For a while now, I've been meaning to bug Ottmar to tell some stories about his songs. See, the majority of his tracks have no vocals, so you're left wondering how and why he named them; here are a few geographically-named tracks about which, as a traveler, I've always been curious:
I know he's done a bunch of traveling, as a teenage vagabond as well as an internationally-acclaimed musician, so I just know there are some fascinating stories behind his music. It's likely that I've missed some in his archive, but it looks like he's started telling us about them:
"Bombay was written in memory of a now defunct ferry from Bombay to Goa, sadly no longer operating according to Steve Hillage with whom I talked about the Goa scene a few years back. Actually, I wrote two songs about that ferry-ride in 1978 after waking up from a dream about the experience in 1993. Morning Arrival in Goa is, of course, the second of the pair, which both appeared for the first time on The Hours between Night + Day

It was a spectacular trip that started around 10 or 11 at night in Bombay harbor and ended in Goa after the sun rose. What a sun rise!!! The sun coming up over the ocean competet with a lighthouse on the coast as the ship reached the harbor in Goa. I had bought a third or fourth class ticket, which entitled me to sleeping on deck. I figured, while being the cheapest option, it was also a sure way to catch the sun rise."
I hope he turns this into a series... (wink wink!)



"These words, passed down from the ancients, will carry me through every adversity and maintain my life in balance. These four words are: This too shall pass. For all worldly things shall indeed pass. When I am heavy with heartache I shall console myself that this too shall pass; when I am puffed with success I shall warn myself that this too shall pass. When I am strangled in poverty I shall tell myself that this too shall pass; when I am burdened with wealth I shall tell myself that this too shall pass. Yea, verily, where is he who built the pyramid? Is he not buried within its stone? And will the pyramid, one day, not also be buried under sand? If all things shall pass why should I be of concern for today?"

--From The Greatest Salesman in the World, a birthday present from Ms. McLaughlin.

Though impermanence is one of my favorite things, books like this are healthy reminders.


It's All About The Customer

Fast Company, Inside the Mind of Jeff Bezos:
"And 'sometimes we measure things and see that in the short term they actually hurt sales, and we do it anyway,' he says, because Amazon managers don't think the short term is a good predictor of the long term. For example, they found that their biggest customers had such large collections of stuff -- especially CDs -- that they accidentally ordered items they had already bought from Amazon years ago. So they decided to give people a warning whenever this was about to happen. Sure enough, the warnings slightly reduced Amazon's sales. But it's hard to study the feature's long-term effects. Would it reduce sales over a 10-year period? They didn't think so. They thought it would make customers happy and probably increase sales. 'You have to use your judgment,' Bezos says. 'In cases like that, we say, 'Let's be simpleminded. We know this is a feature that's good for customers. Let's do it.'' "



Mike continues to do an excellent job blogging from Saigon:
"One thing I've noticed about living down here as opposed to HN is that you tend to see more people missing limbs. I'm not talking about hordes of individuals walking around missing arms or legs but even seeing a couple every once in awhile is unsettling. Sadly, there are still landmines and unexploded ordinance littering the countryside. In fact, not more than a week ago, 3 people were killed by explosives left over from the war."



Another snippet from the book from Chapter Nine, when Randy heads out for a bike ride in my neighborhood:
Skyline Blvd.
"I reached the top of Page Mill Road and turned north on Skyline, along the ridges of hills that mark the volatile San Andreas Fault. These hills, the result of the millenia-long collision of tectonic plates, literally define Silicon Valley to the east and shield it from the Pacific Ocean on the west. This ridge is part of a plate drifting inexorably toward Alaska."

TiVo, back in the day

Returning home from San Francisco to a cold, drippy Sunday afternoon, I built a fire and curled up with Randy Komisar's The Monk and the Riddle, a birthday present from Chuck. Here's a snippet from Chapter Six about TiVo:
Book Cover: The Monk and the Riddle
"Their Teleworld idea was to sell a new kind of hardware, a home server that not only digitally stored incoming electronic information, including audio and video content, but also linked the gamut of digital devices rapidly becoming commonplace in the home: computers, PDAs, and Internet appliances. Concerned that they might be ahead of the market and that customers would be slow to appreciate the ultimate value of their product, Mike and Jim planned to jump-start the business by giving customers the ability to digitize and store several hours of television programming in a set-top box. Their initial product would be, in effect, a souped up VCR with a clever programming guide..."

"Mike and Jim talked about selling hundreds of thousands of set-top boxes, but that wouldn't build a large enough audience for service providers and advertisers. They would have to sell millions of units, and quickly. If they focused on the boxes, I told them, 'your legacy may be that you sowed the seeds of a huge market, which the consumer electronic giants and service providers ultimately reaped.'"
Komisar was spot-on...



Google Blog:
So Google got hacked, huh?

"Actually, we didn't. What happened yesterday was that someone sent the latest version of the MyDoom computer virus out for a spin, and this version flooded search engines like ours with automated searches."

What was up with that "Error-27" page?

"Yeah, we've just learned that our error message for blocked queries isn't the friendliest or most informative communication we've ever had with our users. Hey, we didn't think we'd ever have to show it to anyone..."
We need to order a copy of Defensive Design for the Web... ;)



Mike Davidson:
"Apple has enjoyed the same sort of success with the iPod as Handspring has with the Treo. Both are very expensive devices which were eaten up by the public not because they filled niches, but rather because they created niches. There was no clamoring for a $400 portable music player before the iPod and there was no clamoring for a $600 phone before the Treo."



As of 4:31pm yesterday, I've been alive for a quarter of a century.

Far out.

Oliver the cat, my precious
Weekend birthdays are great, because they're essentially a significant-enough excuse to celebrate Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Friday night my Aunt and I chatted until the wee hours, and I stayed overnight at her place so I could cuddle with my precious. She gave me Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, into which I immediately dove. Nothing intrigues me more than the opposite sex, see...

Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
Saturday morning she made an amazing vege-brunch, and we played with Molly and Oliver and watched a good movie. In the afternoon Katie, Erin and I met Biz, Livia, Maggie (great pic) and Josh at Golden Gate Park in SF; we walked around, chatted, took some pictures, tossed the frisbee and ate tasty Whole Foods watermelon. Then Katie and Erin took me to Herbivore (in Ev's hood) for a to-die-for dinner... I think we were there for like three hours? Afterward, we went to Carla's place and played a group game called Celebrity, which she and her sister invented when they were kids—it's Cranium-ish but without all the discomfort and way more fun. Somebody remind me to explain the rules someday...

This morning I used Katie's laptop to check in with the usual suspects, and had a minor revelation regarding single sign-on; sigh... at least a geek can dream! </tangent> We watched a fun movie and had yummy breakfast on their deck in sunny Noe Valley.

Sushi Main Street, Half Moon Bay
For dinner, my Aunt, Sarah, Chrisann and Mark treated me to a wonderful feast at my favorite sushi restaurant in Half Moon Bay. On the ride home we were treated to what my landlords call the Valhalla Effect—the spectacular view of the cloud layer from Skyline Blvd.:

I repeat: I'm the luckiest kid in the world!



Salon, with a surprisingly quick turnaround time:
"On Monday afternoon, July 19, Stephen Yellin, a 16-year-old politics junkie and frequent contributor to the lefty blog Daily Kos, noticed an intriguing development in Pennsylvania's 8th Congressional District, an area to the north of Philadelphia. The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call was reporting that Jim Greenwood, the district's popular, moderate Republican congressman, had unexpectedly decided not to seek reelection, meaning that his House seat was now up for grabs. This is the sort of news that sets partisans like Yellin jumping for joy, and so, of course, he blogged about it."


"Virginia "Ginny" Schrader, the Democrat running for the open seat, "supports civil unions and is against Bush's positions on Iraq and the Patriot Act," he noted approvingly. But she was woefully low on cash -- as of June 30, Schrader had only $7,000 in the bank. Yellin implored Daily Kos' politically obsessed readers to change that situation"


"What happened next was beyond anything that Yellin had expected. Hundreds of people began pitching in, documenting their small donations in the comments threads of Daily Kos and other blogs: "$25.01 coming from me." "$30.01 from me too." "Yeah, this liberal kicked in $20.01." (Daily Kos readers add in the extra penny as a kind of signature for the site, letting a campaign know where the money's coming from.) The tide came in for at least two full days, and when it was over, Ginny Schrader, a candidate who was recently unknown to even the most obsessive campaign watchers, found herself flush with more than $30,000. She was suddenly a political force to contend with."
Right on!



My morning Bloglines routine showed me this post on BoingBoing, about a statue park in Lithuania called Stalin World. I visited a different commie statue park (in Budapest) back in 4/2000 and thought I'd send Cory my photos to add to the original post. When I got to BoingBoing, somebody else had already written in about the park in Budapest. Sigh.

The official museum site won't show you these monstrosities, however:Ah, such wonderful memories of collegiate foolishness abroad!



iTunes import
Santa Amazon dropped off a few things yesterday. Will these cds ever touch a cd player again? Unlikely.

I *heart* my Mac!


"There's something to be said about multi-millionaire executives, making gadzillion dollar business deals and then walking out of the room and seeing the musical geniuses behind "COVET YOUR CUTENESS" staring back at them.