· The World
· The World (1 fragment)
· · At Sea (4 fragments)
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· · bsc3years (1 fragment)
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· · Canada (2 fragments)
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· · · RailsConf (3 fragments)
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· · Google (3 fragments)
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· · Life Online (274 fragments)
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· · · People (34 fragments)
· · · Sun (21 fragments)
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· · · Recordings (1 fragment)
· · Nature (2 fragments)
· · Open Data (1 fragment)
· · People (92 fragments)
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· · · · Howe Sound (6 fragments)
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· · · China (21 fragments)
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· · · Food and Drink (1 fragment)
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· · · Frankfurt (3 fragments)
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· · Tech Breakup (4 fragments)
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· I’ve come to loathe autumn. It echoes the current stage of my own life a little too closely. Plus it’s plenty hard to just stay level, any season of this filthy year. I saw someone on social media asking (may not have the words quite right) “How you folks holding it together while the world’s burning?” I looked for something useful and short to say, came up empty. But now maybe this ... [11 comments]
· My Long Links blog fragments curate long-form pieces that I think worth an investment of time, acknowledging that most people with jobs and lives and so on can’t read all of them, in the hopes that one or two will reward, Dear Reader, an intrusion into your scarce free time. Here’s another offering. But first, why haven’t I written any since December 2022? ... [4 comments]
Workin’ for the Man
· I think that anybody who publishes publicly should disclose who’s paying them, because it’s unethical not to. Call me old-fashioned. So I’m here to disclose a new paymaster and tell you almost nothing more. But stick around anyhow, because I have a moderately funny onboarding story ... [3 comments]
· Humanity’s institutions on this planet are generally not working that well just now, which is depressing. By way of cheerfulness, and maybe education, here are two counterexamples; professional interactions from my own day-to-day life where things go about as well as one could want. And maybe there’s a lesson in that ... [4 comments]
· I hope everyone’s winter (or summer, depending) is going well. I find myself much busier recently, but still the browser tabs add up. Herewith another curation of long-form pieces that few will have time for all of, but a subset of them may be enriching for a subset of you ... [1 comment]
· Sometimes it’s wrong to begin a phrase with the word “just”. I offer as evidence two such situations. I think there’s a common thread to be drawn ... [19 comments]
· Hey everyone, welcome to autumn on the top half o’ the orb and spring on the bottom. For your pleasure and edification, another curation of long-form pieces that pleased and edified this semi-retired person, one or two of which might boost your morale in these trying times. Featured: Tolkien as lexicographer, Wikipedia vs Fox News, John le Carré, and cheesy music from my youth ... [3 comments]
· Hi everyone, once again I invite you to a curation of links to long-form pieces that I have time for but you may not. The hope is that one or two of these will enrich your life. This month, featuring quite a bit of music, computer keyboard obsession, politics as usual, and potatoes ... [3 comments]
· What is “faith”, anyhow? The answers can become abstract, but concretely it’s what gets Salman Rushdie stabbed in the face. Oh wait, is that statement anti-Islamic? Guilty as charged; but then I’m also anti-Christian, anti-Hindu, anti-Buddhist, and, well, there are too many organized religions to list them all. Herewith too many words on Faith and Truth, albeit with pretty pictures. I do find positive things to say, but at the end of the day, well, no ... [7 comments]
· Dear Readers, once again a selection of links to long-form pieces which I, as a semi-retired person, have time for, but people with normal lives probably don’t. The hope is that one or two will enrich your life. Housekeeping note: I have said “Yes” too often recently and Long-Linking opportunities will probably shrink. Featured this time out: American roots music, BC beer, how wealth vanishes, and the Apple M2 ... [3 comments]
· Once again, a selection of long-form pieces for those who (unlike me) have jobs and won’t have time for all of, but might benefit from ingesting one or two. This month we have lots of musical offerings, along with politics, advice on how to walk, and 5G ... [2 comments]
· Welcome to another Long Links, selected pointers to long-form pieces that have added value to my semi-retired days and one or two of which might reward you if you make time for them. A few of this month’s pieces aren’t free; it’s a bitter fact that the truth is paywalled but the lies are free. Sorry ... [3 comments]
· Welcome to another curation of long-form pieces, the kind of thing that I, as a semi-retired person, have time for. While you probably don’t have the space for all of these, one or two might reward an investment of your attention. These are obviously grim times and indeed there’s grim stuff here but I’ve tried to add some smiles for balance ... [3 comments]
· For a while there I was posting a Long Links early in each month, recommending long-form pieces that I’d had the time to read, acknowledging that people who aren’t semi-retired wouldn’t have time for all of them but perhaps one or two would add value even for the busy. I fell out of that habit but now it’s 2022 and there are plenty of tabs I meant to write about, some dating back to early 2021. So… Welcome, everyone, to 2022, and let’s go long! ... [4 comments]
· It’s six months since my second Covid shot (team AZ/Moderna) and thus booster time. Which I found out this morning via SMS from my local (BC, Canada) Centre for Disease Control. The registration process was fast and painless. This is exactly the sort of thing we thought we were building the Internet for, and has lessons to teach ... [2 comments]
· Welcome to the August 1st edition of “Long Links”, which assembles long-form pieces that I have the luxury of enjoying due to semi-retirement. Nobody with a real job has time to read all this stuff, but one or two items might enrich your life without burning too many minutes. Note: There was no July 1st Long Links because either I was busier or the world’s long-form authors less prolific in June. Highlights this time out: Taxing wealth, attacking Amazon, guitar music, and God ...
· Welcome to the June 2021 issue of Long Links, in which I curate long-form works that I enjoyed last month. Even if you think all these look interesting, you probably don’t have time to read them assuming you have a job, which I don’t. My hope is that one or two will reward your attention ...
· As we’ve slogged through Trump and carbon-loading and Covid, I’ve managed to remain more or less un-depressed and find enough gratifications in day-to-day life to keep the black dog of despair at a distance. But this morning I woke up early and, while the household slept, read most of the May 15th issue of The Economist. And folks, with a very few exceptions, it was pretty well all bad news. I feel an obligation to pass this summary along with a plea: As we relax slowly into post-Covid, maybe try to find a bit of extra energy and put it into politics or philanthropy or some other way to mitigate the awfulness. Our children deserve it ... [5 comments]
· Welcome once again to Long Links, a monthly curation of long-form pieces that pleased and educated me and that being semi-retired gives me time to enjoy; offered in the hope that one or two might enrich the lives of busier people ... [2 comments]
· Welcome to the monthly “Long Links” post for March 2021, in which I take advantage of my lightly-employed status to curate a list of pointers to good long-form stuff that I have time to savor but you probably don’t, but which you might enjoy one or two of. This month there’s lots of video, a heavier focus on music, and some talk about my former employer ...
· Welcome to the monthly tour of long-form excellence that I, due to being semi-retired, have the time to read. You probably don’t have that kind of time but one or two of these might brighten your day anyhow ... [2 comments]
· Welcome to the Long Links look-back at January 2021. Once again I assemble long-form pieces that I’m fortunate enough to have time for due to my lightly-employed condition. Probably few have time (or inclination) to plow through all this stuff, but one or two might reward your time ... [4 comments]
When You Know
· I’m a person who knows a lot about how computers and software work, is generally curious, and reads fast. I’ve been wrong about lots of things over the years. But there have a been a few times when a combination of technology-literacy and just paying attention to the world have made me 100% sure that I was seeing something coming that many others weren’t. Here are a few of those stories. The reason I’m telling them is that I’m in another of those moments, seeing something obvious that not enough other people have, and I want to offer credentials before I share it. Also, some of the stories are entertaining ... [9 comments]
· Happy new year! Welcome to the first Long Links of 2021; this is a monthly curation of long-form pieces that I, due to being semiretired, have time to read. Probably, most people reading this have less time, but perhaps one or two will add value even for a busy person ... [3 comments]
· Welcome to the Long Links offering for November 2020, in which I take advantage of my lightly-employed status to recommend a list of long-form works that I had time to consume, acknowledging that while you probably don’t, one or two of them might reward the time it would take you to absorb. This month’s highlights: Election rear-views, Siberia, blueswomen, the Orlando NBA bubble, and a lovely lecture about software and music ... [4 comments]
· This is the fifth “Long Links” episode, a monthly curation of good long-form essays from around the Internet that nobody who (unlike me) has an actual job has time to read all of. A glance through this might turn up one or two pieces that would reward even a busy person’s time ... [1 comment]
· Welcome to the fourth monthly “Long Links” instalment, in which I take advantage of my lightly-employed status to enjoy high-quality long-form pieces and point out a few that seem worthwhile in the hope that you might fit one or two into your busier lives ... [2 comments]
· I have the good fortune to live in a seafront city, the further fortune to travel often by boat to a cabin by ocean’s edge, and still further, to work in a boat/office, many hours a week within arm’s reach of salt water. The water exhibits mysteries and tells me things I don’t understand but would love, given another lifetime, to study ... [5 comments]
· I seem to have fallen into a monthly rhythm of posting pointers to what I think are high-quality long-form pieces. One of the best things about not having a job as such is that I have time to read these things. My assumption is that most of you don’t, but that maybe one or two will reward an investment of your limited time ... [3 comments]
· Back in early July I posted ten links to long-form pieces that I’d had a chance to enjoy because of not having one of those nasty “full-time-job” things. I see that the browser tabs are bulking up again, so here we go. Just like last time, people with anything resembling a “life” probably don’t have time for all of them, but if a few pick a juicy-looking essay to enjoy, that’ll have made it worthwhile ... [2 comments]
· Having recently quit my job, I have more spare time than I used to. A surprising amount of it has been dedicated to reading longer-form articles, mostly about politics and society, but only mostly. I miss my job but I sure have enjoyed the chance to stretch out my mind in new directions. There are plenty of things in the world that need more than a thousand words to talk about. Anyhow, here is a set of lightly-annotated links that people who still have jobs almost certainly won’t have time to read all of. But maybe one or two will add flavor to your life ... [1 comment]
· A couple weeks back “Social Distancing” would’ve been a Big Thinker’s title in The Times, about the Downside Of Facebook. Now it’s a best practice if you care about flattening the COVID-19 curve and saving grandmothers. I’m a believer; recently I tweeted Cancel Everything and I meant it. But this shouldn’t mean that you can’t go outside; or shop; or photograph ... [2 comments]
Reasons to Cycle
· Recently I enthused on the life impact of getting an e-bike. The enthusiasm remains and I two-wheel to work almost every day. Often my thoughts are of the form “What makes this so great is…” Here are some of those, but there’s a very specific assumption: that your home city has decent bikelane infrastructure. Vancouver’s is not world-class but also not terrible, and I’ll toss in a few pix from my commute for non-bike-commuters who might not have seen what that means ... [2 comments]
· Really, they are. Our civic spaces are mis-led and full of anger, some of it even righteous. We have fouled our species’ nest and are ignoring the smoke curling out of its edges, and don’t know what’s awaiting when we fall out of the tree. I’ve been sad a lot ... [9 comments]
· I’m not young and I can afford to stop working. I’m wondering if I should ... [24 comments]
· What happened was, I was walking through a train station on the way to work with the buds playing randomly on shuffle and a knifeblade of Real Music came in from outside so I had to pull them out of my ears, there was this young dude getting great electric sound out of a teeny amp doing a slow take on Little Wing with a really good voice: When I’m sad, she comes to me… plenty room between the notes and lots of soul in them. He looked a little hard-pressed; I put my hand in my pocket for some coin but there was no coin there because I live on plastic these days and that busker went unpaid that morning. Another reason for a thing I’m thinking of: Going back to cash ... [14 comments]
· On a recent Saturday night, a family connection got into trouble that took me on a rescue mission to a party gone wrong, then Emergency. Then it echoed into nightmare ... [7 comments]
Gareth and Rune
· He’s leaving and she’s dying. Still, these are happy pictures ... [2 comments]
· What happened was, Lauren brought home Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style and I was instantly captivated, by the book’s beauty and also the power of its message. So I’ve got typography on my mind. Stand by for more on the subject, but it struck me immediately that I’m living a typography lesson at work, in the form of the famous Amazon six-pager ... [6 comments]
· Most years I hate this season; less light every day, and with every gust a whirl of summer leaves torn from winter branches. Maybe I dislike the resonance with my life’s own greybeard season. Maybe it’s the trio of huge Pacific storms we’re dealing with. Let’s be honest: Mostly, it’s shitty US politics. Some of the colors are beautiful though ... [3 comments]
· I’m one. We’re not exactly common on the ground; my profession, apparently not content with having excluded a whole gender, is mostly doing without the services of a couple of generations ... [32 comments]
Tender Sky Shoehorn
· In which I reveal a little life-hack that can get you out your front door noticeably quicker. First, a picture ... [4 comments]
The New 40
· June 21st this year was its longest day, also Fathers’ Day and my birthday. I feel vaguely guilty because I haven’t the slightest insight into this growing-old thing, so don’t expect golden-years reportage ... [6 comments]
End of 2014
· As the year winds down I’m mostly cheery about my slice of life, though distressed by much of what I see looking outside it. There are cheery-side pictures here ... [4 comments]
Retina Screen Tab Sweep
· When you’re running your 15" Retina Mac in high-rez mode and you still don’t have room for all your tabs, you probably have a lifestyle problem. One solution is to publish the links, so if your don’t-kill-this-tab instinct turned out to be right, you have Internet Memory on your side ... [1 comment]
· As of March 17th I’ll be an ex-employee. It’s an amicable separation in the face of irreconcilable differences: I wouldn’t move to California and Google wouldn’t open a Vancouver office. I haven’t decided what to do next ... [57 comments]
Good Writing, Twice
· I almost never use this space any more just for links but damn it this is my blog and I can if I want to. Here are two exceptional pieces of writing and you should go read them both: First, John Gruber’s Microsoft, Past and Future is by a huge margin the best thing I’ve read on that transition, and Microsoft still matters, really a lot. Second, William Burroughs’ Doing Easy is unlike anything I’ve read this year or last year either, will make you smile and is full of big important life lessons. [2 comments]
Standing In Line
· What happened was, I ran down the street to the grocery store for a couple of items, a spur-of-the-moment thing. Picked them up, and then there was a big line-up for the cashiers. I stared blankly for a moment and fished in my pocket... oops! I’d left my phone at home. Wow... I was going to have to interact with reality, in the form of a supermarket queue. There are all these Net contrarians lamenting everyone’s constant escape into their mobile device’s screen, and now my escape was cut off. So... screw the contrarians, it sucked. Everywhere I looked, I was looking at overaggressive marketing or celebrity tabloids. The other people were all tired and grumpy and I didn’t know any of them. It was only a handful of minutes, but I really wish I’d brought the Internet. [12 comments]
· The tabs! They multiply like magnificently miscellaneous maggots! ...
Illustrated New Year’s Tab Sweep
· Welcome to 2013! If you’re like me, you don’t have too much planned for the day. So here are some goodies built up in tabs & bookmarks since sometime in mid-2012. Since words and links sans pictures are boring, I include pictures, mostly of snow, from our Christmas excursion to Saskatchewan ... [1 comment]
· Here again, decades since it meant back-to-school for me; but now my kids go. It seems a bigger deal than the New Year, and weighs heavier as the number to come grows smaller ... [4 comments]
Tab Sweep (Non-geek)
· Not all sending-the-world-a-link publishing should vanish into FaceTwimblr+, methinks. So let’s batch a few up ... [6 comments]
· Everyone knows it’s a good thing. Economists talk about “productivity” and, more seriously, total factor productivity. When there’s more, wealth generally increases, which is good. Except when it’s bad ... [7 comments]
· I am working on the Google IO sessions; this includes a large number of rehearsals. One premise of IO is that we put actual engineers, the people who build the good stuff, on stage; they deserve, and receive, support in polishing their material ... [3 comments]
Local Uncertainty Maximum
· Welcome to the end of the year. As I look forward into 2012, I foresee, uh... almost nothing. In fact I can’t recall a time when the uncertainty was so pervasive. Here is a small compendium of prognosticational impotence ... [6 comments]
· Happy Thanksgiving Americans! If you’re the type who browses while full of turkey, here are some postprandial links with no unifying theme whatsoever ... [2 comments]
Mega Tab Sweep — The World
· Apparently I haven’t done one of these since January. The title is sort of a lie, since I don’t have all these around in tabs; some are sitting in bookmark folders and so on ... [2 comments]
· As progress progresses, increasingly there are fewer things for which it’s worth paying what it costs to fix them when they break. I think that many of us are offended by the disposability of things like kids’ toys, Ikea furniture, computers that aren’t brand new, sunglasses, and mobile phones ... [11 comments]
· From time to time, in the course of day-to-day life, we all make stupid, basic errors in cogitation. For example, this morning I was unloading the dishwasher and, with three coffee mugs in one hand, used the other to open the cupboard where the plates and bowls go. I had a moment of complete blankness before I shook my head with the mild annoyance usual on these occasions ... [7 comments]
· Today I resigned from Sun/Oracle — the official integration date here in Canada is March 1st, so I won’t ever have actually been an Oracle employee. I’m not currently looking for another job. I’ll write some looking-back and looking-forward stories when I’ve got a little perspective. I can’t say enough good things about the people at Sun — and outsiders with whom I worked — over the past few years. Thanks for enriching my life! [Update: Contact info] ... [17 comments]
· I’m getting a lot of questions, and I think it’s important that readers know who pays the author of the words they’re reading. So: I have received an offer of employment from Oracle, with compensation that’s acceptable, and am waiting for information about the role that is contemplated and where I’d fit into the organization. I have until next week to accept or decline. I’m pleased that I got an offer, and assume that the picture will fill in soon; merging an 80K-headcount company with a 30K-headcount acquisition is complex, but Oracle has been around this track lots of times ... [8 comments]
· I hope you basked in the warmth of loved ones’ company, ate well, and were pleasantly surprised. I have seasonal photographs, with thoughts on Joseph Ratzinger, McKinley Morganfield, and turkey stuffing ... [5 comments]
· For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been really sick; possibly H1N1 (chills, headaches, body pain) but possibly just a really bad cold. Also Lauren’s mother died and she had to go away to help so I was in weakened-single-Dad mode. I have explored some new dimensions in fatigue. I might have got better faster if I’d been able to go to bed instead of beating my fledgling Clojure skillz to a bloody pulp against 45,275,432,643 bytes in 218,201,129 lines of test data. I have thoroughly investigated some things that turn out not to work at all but been pleasantly surprised by some others that shouldn’t but do. Among the many things that I haven’t been doing is writing. While I wasn’t writing, the
tbray.org server in LA had one of its disks go off to play with Jesus’ ponies so now it’s been reincarnated in Virginia. [Mixed theological metaphors? -Ed.] In the meantime, the uncertainty about who it is I might work for has moved into public-throw-down mode; the EU is officially worried about database competition, Oracle thinks the fears are groundless, and the US DOJ thinks the merger is OK but wants you to know that the EU is too. In the meantime, it’s raining like hell in Vancouver, dark at midday and a long time to spring. Things could be better. [3 comments]
· It’s been a tough twelvemonth, small victims all around. The young plum tree we put in to replace the storm victim faded away in late summer and is dry sticks this spring. The lovely little old rose that I wrote of in Brick, Dusty, Creamy, Silky seems no more. The Nandina domestica that appears in Darkening was half-broken by snow; we’ll see how it recovers from my attempt at surgery. Also half-gone (mysteriously, no visible wound) is our huge vigorous Mme. Alfred Carrière ... [3 comments]
· What happened was, we needed to visit the Apple Store on Saturday and in Vancouver that means the big glitzy Pacific Centre at the heart of heartless flavorless Downtown ... [9 comments]
· When I was a kid, I could play with running water almost indefinitely ... [10 comments]
Make Your Own Presents
· There’s extra satisfaction in giving something you’ve made yourself. For someone like me who is entirely without talent at drawing, carpentry, and with at best average manual dexterity, this limits the options. (A few years ago, I gave a nephew a couple of highly-developed Diablo II characters.) This year, I managed framed photos, mix-tapes, and a calendar. This is to recommend the practice, and includes a couple of tips ... [6 comments]
On Lines and Angles
· Item: They’re renovating the house across the street from us; a big job with the basement enlarged and the whole structure raised a few feet. The trouble is, from our front porch it looks like it’s ever-so-slightly tilted. Item: I was doing some photo-editing and having a little trouble getting one shot satisfactorily leveled. Those who’ve worked with Photoshop or equivalent know that a tilt of much less than 1º is obvious to an attentive eye.
[The comments on this piece are remarkable; you might a perusal rewarding.] ... [27 comments]
· Like most people on the left half of the New World, driving has informed and constrained and enriched my adult life. I’ve enjoyed it. Indications are that mine will be one of the last drive-everywhere generations. The shape the tribe settles into may be more pleasing, and strengthening local culture is a fine thing, but the loss of the time-behind-the-wheel, with the music playing, going places, well, it’s sad ... [9 comments]
Three Thousand and One
· After this goes live and until I get around to publishing next, it’ll say “(3001 fragments)” on the ongoing front page, which the majority of you who are currently looking at a feed reader never see. Three thousand is a lot. But they’re coming slower than they used to; does this trend lead to silence? ... [10 comments]
· We left summery August Vancouver for a week on the prairies, where blazing heat and lashing storms alternated, thunder often in the distance ...
Tab Sweep — The World
· I was writing that Tech Tab Sweep and regretting the absence here of all the nifty non-tech links I’ve been twittering. I think it’s lame to gateway your Twitter feed into your blog, but I decided it’d be worthwhile to go back and pull a few out for those who might be entertained but don’t read Twitter. Some of these are superultrajuicy ...
· Screwdrivers are important. Really; you just can’t do anything without them. And it turns out that lots are lots better than just a few. This is about that. Illustrated ... [34 comments]
Happy Backyard Story
· We bought our house in 1997 and were expecting our first child in mid-1999. This caused us to launch a pretty major Home Improvement project, which was painful but successful; herewith a small photo-essay ... [1 comment]
· I like mornings. Especially bright ones on foot in the city. People are up and about for a reason; it’s easy to believe the world is on the whole is a well-organized purposeful kind of place ... [3 comments]
What You Like
· The benchmark we’re grinding away at over in Wide Finder land is computing popularity stats using this weblog’s server logs from its birth through April 2008. The benchmark is more interesting than the results, but since I write this stuff, I find the results interesting too ...
Rock & Roll Dishes
· The dishwasher’s on the fritz, scheduled for a fix Tuesday. So our eight-year-old’s duties have expanded from table-clearing to include dish-drying. He whines, but doesn’t get much sympathy. This evening, I put on R.E.M.’s Fables of the Reconstruction, turned way up, to help. What a great record that is, even after all these years. I explained to the boy that rock & roll is very helpful for getting dishes done. He was doubtful, but bopping a bit on Can’t Get There From Here. [5 comments]
Five And a Bit
· Years I mean, since I launched ongoing; I missed the anniversary last month because I was real busy in Geneva. This will be fragment number two thousand eight hundred and thirty two. As I said a couple of years ago, I have better things to spend computer-programming time on than figuring out how many words that is ... [4 comments]
· It’s a word for thinking, “reflection”. That’s odd, because thinking is more than echoing the world back to itself ... [6 comments]
What the Pope Can’t Do
· Was listening to an argument and someone said “Gimme a break. Even the Pope has to put his pants on one leg at a time!” And I thought that was incredibly lame. To start with, the Pope wears a dress, everyone knows that. And this afternoon, I was changing my 18-month-old, and once the underneath layers had been put back together, held her pants up to her feet. She considered them, then coolly thrust both legs through at once, her tiny bare pink toes emerging without a hitch. And who cares what the Pope can’t do, anyhow? [3 comments]
Year-End Sweep — The World
· Over the course of the year, in browser tabs, bookmarks, and del.icio.us, I’ve built up a huge list of things that I felt I should write about, at least at the time I saw them. Well, dammit, I’m not gonna let 2007 end without at least making a try. Here goes. Weakly categorized ... [2 comments]
· The family gathered this year here with us in Vancouver. Intimations of mortality occurred, but I’m still glad of the visitors ... [1 comment]
· The big issues? War, hunger, and oppression, of course. After that, questions of human communication seem pretty important to me. Especially since the landscape we stand on is shifting. [Update: The comments on this piece are fantastic. My profound thanks to the contributors.] ... [36 comments]
Good Tech Writing
· Two of my browser tabs contain pieces that are related in that they are very well-written, and about technology ... [3 comments]
· I was talking with an old friend about lots of things including the Internet and the conversation wandered somehow to the Old Testament. She asked “Maybe the Net is like the tower of Babel?” It’s not that strained an analogy; what we’re trying to build does partake of large-scale hubris. “But that story had an unhappy ending” I replied. And indeed, were a vengeful hand, divine or otherwise, to intervene, to confuse our language so we could not understand each other, that would be disastrous at the scale of Babel. I don’t think we’re trying to restore the pre-Tower state though: Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. Trying just to lower conversational friction and barriers to entry for everyone in the world, that’s hubris enough. [6 comments]
Before the Bell
· Parents’ bicycles head to the school from every direction. They ride prudently, sitting up, calling guidance and warnings to the little bikes swarming round them, whence smaller voices shrill about new socks and rockets. After the bell, the parents fly outward, bent low, pedaling hard, fast and quiet. [5 comments]
The Baby and the Balloon
· At the grocery store where we shop once or twice every week, they always have helium balloons at the cashiers, and any kids going through get offered one. Which leads to a parenting-strategies dilemma and a funny story ... [18 comments]
· The pictures here, in their inline form, are now all 400 pixels wide, not 300; I think that looks a lot better. Did resizing them all ever burn a lot of CPU. Also, the sidebar has been cleaned up, there’s a software link there that consolidates some bits of code I’ve emitted over the years; with a little homily in the first paragraph, even ... [2 comments]
· Our fourteen-month-old has never been a particularly good sleeper, and in recent weeks it’s been brutal; she’s squalling in bed every so often, and has a major meltdown in the middle of most nights. Yeah, we’ve read the books and done the research and have tried some things and are trying others, some kids are just lousy sleepers. Time is on our side. I should be going to bed earlier, only it’s summer and the evenings are warm and my work is compelling and everything’s hurtling forward. But I apologize in advance to those I may snarl at inappropriately. [9 comments]
Design of the Century?
· From time to time, the Economist, to which I subscribe, pesters me to take an online survey, and sometimes I do (particularly if I’m on a boring telecon). This week I did one that veered into issues of design—there was one question that showed interiors of four sample apartments and asked which one I’d pick for a rental. Then there was a question that I thought was fairly astounding: What do you think is the Twentieth Century’s most iconic piece of design; write in your answer and an explanation. [Updated: I added my candidate, with a picture. One commenter agreed.] ... [42 comments]
· As usual, there isn’t a unifying theme. In this issue: lumpiness, stuff, microformats, eye candy, metaprogramming, beards, and psychology ... [1 comment]
The Jagged Edge of the World
· Caught in pixels for your, well, not pleasure exactly. I’m talking about the World Press Photo Contest Winners’ Gallery. If you have any kind of a heart, there are pictures here that will tear holes in it. And some that are just insanely pretty. This year, parents of babies might want to avoid looking at the “Spot News” category. [2 comments]
· I pulled the rental onto the Virginia highway and saw no other cars, so I stomped the gas and enjoyed the kick. That particular Malibu seemed well set up and the needle headed for sixty pleasingly fast. A little too pleasingly, maybe. It occurred to me that automakers have a systematic bias in favor of making their speedometers lie, on the high side of course; it makes the customers happy and the police happy and probably saves some lives. For rentals, bought a fleet at a time, the pressure would be higher. I wouldn’t be surprised if some Operations-Research wonk in a back-room at Hertz or Avis or somewhere has done the numbers: for every mile per hour of positive error on the dial, so many fewer accidents, so many tens of millions of dollars of savings in repair bills, so many dozen fewer lawsuits. Plausible? [27 comments]
· A rare gaggle-of-interesting-links fragment. Don’t look for a unifying theme, there isn’t one. Item: Lauren Wood bemoans the ephemerality of blogs, specifically the late great Enplaned. This is Internet Vandalism, and it’s happening all the time. Item: Lauren Weinstein rings the alarm bells on the anti-piracy facilities in Windows Vista. This sounds terrifying; every black-hat in the world, and I mean every one, will be thinking up cool extortion scenarios around this technology. Item: Rebecca Bollwitt reveals that greeting-card categories are outta control; outta control, I tell ya! (Example: “Suitable for Remarriage”). Item: Shelley Powers has some mesmerising autumn-leaf pictures, with a subtext. Item: Il a neigé sur la Réunion. Item: Rob Bray on interesting government lists; for example, terrorist organizations. [1 comment]
How Much Work?
· Here are links to two explorations of the same question: why do we work the amount we work? Suw Charman recently reported on a thought-provoking EuroFOO session by Ryan Carson, who has decided as a matter of policy to put his company on a four-day week. Then today Brad DeLong quotes Robert Frank on Keynes having been wrong about wealth and desire, but is left unsatisfied, still wondering “Why 40 hours?” Some of us, of course, have vocations not jobs and are happily writing code and chatting with colleagues and blogging at 11PM. But still... one would like the amount people work to be explicable by rational economics. DeLong doesn’t try, he veers beautifully sideways into Cowboy Economics or rather Junkie Economics; well anyhow, he quotes six verses of a song usually sung by Margo Timmins. Which is a sane way to address a mystery. But if I were going around again, I think I’d be an economist.
· Check out this surprising piece: The unbearable lightness of being stateless, by Ariel Hendel. He starts with wise words on asceticism and the business traveler, moves through something called “Logical Domains” which can serve as “surf bum domains”. It seems to make sense and I had to go back and read it again, because it was good, even though at the end of the day he is trying to sell you a computer.
Another Baseball Proposal
· Back in July 2004, I wrote about going to a baseball game with fireworks, and a marriage proposal unexpectedly breaking out on the field. I guess this must be somewhat of a tradition, because it happened again this last Canada Day, where, once again, I took fireworks pictures. Only there was a different spin this time, and I got photos of the proposal too. I thought the whole thing was too tacky to write up, but the pictures have been playing on my mind every time I go past them in the July-pix folder. And the story is not entirely without interest; so make up your own mind ...
Jacobs, Pictures, Spartans
· Jane Jacobs died; the city I live in, Vancouver, is pretty solidly Jacobsian both in its current shape and its planning dogma. By choosing to live here I’m empirically a fan. Oddly, few have remarked how great Jacobs looked; her face commanded the eye. Which leads me Alex Waterhouse-Hayward’s wonderful Jane Jacobs & Viveca Lindfors; surprising portraits and thoughts on decoration. W-H’s blog has become one of only two or three that I stab at excitedly whenever I see something new. For example, see Sex Crimes, Homicide and Drugs and yes, that’s what it’s about. Staying with the death-and-betrayal theme, and apparently (but not really) shifting back 2½ millennia, see John Cowan’s The War (after Simonides), being careful to look closely at the links. I’ve written about those same wars.
The Long Form
· I found that Orlowski’s long, incoherent anti-Wikipedia screed in the Guardian sent my thinking in some unexpected directions. Really, it’s too much to expect rational discourse from a man whose first piece on the subject (that I saw) rejoiced in the URL “khmer_rouge_in_daipers” (sic). Anyhow, he assembles put-downs from the usual anti-Wikipedia suspects; there’s really not much new. I will credit him for one observation that has recently become apparent to me: the wearing thing about being a tender of the Wikipedia flame isn’t the malicious political or racist crazies, it’s the constant background noise of dumb low-level minor juvenile vandalism. After the same-old same-old bashfest is done, the article dips into sophmore philosophy, arguing that the Net’s endless flow of atomized information somehow prevents us from interpreting or acquiring wisdom. And, by the way, the kids these days are no good, what with relying on Google instead of Real Books. Anyhow, in among all this tilting at windmills there is a (fairly well concealed) thing to think about, and it has to do with length. It doesn’t bother me that much of the prose I read these days has an age measured in hours, or is evanescent electronic text, or is produced by principals rather than intermediaries. But here’s what I’m coming to think: in text, short form tends to drive out long form. Our novelty-seeking chimpanzee minds would rather chew through a bunch of tasty little morsels than a full balanced meal. For example, when I was just about to turn in last night, I glanced at the New Yorker magazine at the end of the sofa, got started reading George Packer’s excellent The Lesson of Tal Afar, and didn’t get to bed till way past 1AM. And I learned some things about the state of play in Iraq that no succession of blog posts is gonna teach me, because the material really needs a dozen or so pages of beautifully-typeset densely-argued discourse. I’m not going to try to summarize Packer’s piece; but if you want to have a really educated opinion about the way things are heading over there, you’ll read it. As for me, I’m making a conscious effort to do more of my reading in big chunks. But I’m not giving up on blogs or the Wikipedia, and I remain contemptuous of Orlowski’s posse’s ineffectual flailing at anything with that dangerous smell of the New and Interesting.
Thirty-six ongoing Months
· Feb. 27, 2003 saw the Hello world post here at ongoing. Three years? Seems like thirty. This, when I post it, will be fragment number one thousand seven hundred and sixty-two. I’d calculate the word-count, but that would take some real work, and my time in front of a computer is full, full with things I want to work on and ongoing fragments I want to write. Thanks, 1,762 thanks, for reading, and to my co-workers and family, especially Lauren, thanks for putting up with the side-effects.
Pictures of Not Much
· I’ve used “prognosticator” as a veiled insult, just because it sounds so nasty. Last year I played that game though, in a post with a title like this one’s; now it’s a quiet New Year’s Eve (we’re tired and have a big day tomorrow), so why not consider last year the start of a tradition? So let’s look back and see how I did last year, then try again. And again toss in some pretty pictures of not much ...
My Cut-and-Paste Untech Year
· This meme’s been sloshing around since early December, which seems too early to me. Herewith my year in 12 cut-and-paste sentences, none about technology. (For the tech year, see here.)
January: The children run wild in a universe entirely occupied by snowballs, sleds, snow forts, and of course snow people. February: The food is excellent, the goats are charming, the view is good, the air on the mountainside is a pleasure to breathe, and the motto is Da’ Feta Mo’ Betta; what’s not to like? March: In the fashion-boutique windows, flirty little wisps of flowered fabric, summer skirts and halters, are sad in the wet grey light; I suppose lots more languish unworn in closets and drawers all over town. April: You can pretend that a lifestyle where you drive everywhere is OK, but it’s not free, it’s not even cheap. May: So how about that barista with the hammer and sickle? June: We may not be able to save the world, but maybe we can save one brave woman. July: The streets are thronged with the youth of Europe, and a pretty scruffy lot they are, too. August: Hey New Orleans: when you get yourself back together, I’ll come down and spend a bunch of money on booze and music, that’s a promise. September: We, the devotees of the Church of Baseball, howled as one in sorrow, then relaxed and remembered our beers and so on. October: The medley of Slovenian folk-songs and Deep Purple hits went on till 2AM. November: But slow is OK, because time is what he has, no end of it; and when you’re my age that time rushes by, fast and unceasing like a spring flood. December: She handed over the coffee and giggled at me: “It’s a bum!”
· There some points of really fresh interest in the 2005/08/22 New Yorker. At first glance there are no ads; after a minute you realise that in fact that one advertiser has bought all the space in the issue. Their name never appears, as far as I can tell, but all the pages that would be advertising are filled with graphics—in a very New Yorker style—that feature the advertiser’s icon, one you’d probably recognize. Inside, there’s a good feature on Kinky Friedman, minor country-music star (the Texas Jewboys) turned successful mystery novelist, who’s now running for governor of Texas. Friedman says: “You have your life and your work, and you should get the two as confused and as mixed up as possible. Make it all one fabric.” Which is a fine goal, if perhaps not achievable by everyone; lots of people just have jobs, and lots of people are fine with that. Me, I’ve got a vocation. But then I realized that this issue of the magazine is getting with Kinky’s program too. The real “job” of a magazine, what it gets paid for, is selling advertising; and in this case, they’re mixing up their graphical identity and their job in a fairly challenging way. Advertising, as it’s done now, works less and less every year. I’m not saying that this New Yorker gambit is the One New Truth, but in a trade that really needs some new ideas, anything different is news.
· Its extent is fixed, inelastic. Some of the time you spend leaves a mark on the world, some not. Some is pleasurable, some not. Some is necessary, some not. The waste of time is the only waste that is irrecoverable, even in principle. But you gotta slack off sometimes or you’ll go nuts.
On the Absence of Women
· Here’s the problem: in some places, there aren’t enough women around. For example, high-traction blogs, newspaper op-ed pages, and the computer business. It’s obvious and it’s been obvious for a long time, but has provoked a flurry of pretty interesting conversation this last couple of weeks. This is provoked not only by the recent traffic but by a trip to the bathroom on a recent evening at the opera ...
· I’ve been having one of ’em, and when you got a blog you can wallow in self-pity in front of the whole world, and it’s even OK if you can keep it to once a year or so. Item: I spent 45 minutes waiting for the 30 seconds with the infectious-diseases specialist, at least I seem unlikely to become Nine-fingered Tim Item: I subtly borked my Tomcat/Jython setup, hours later and after perusing
PyServlet.java I determined that the faulty component, the one between the chair and the computer, had accidentally deleted a crucial
import statement. Item: I proved conclusively that the combined magic of Swing and X11 don’t allow you to sit in Vancouver and use NetBeans on a computer in Menlo Park when you’re connected via Ssh over VPN over PPOE over DSL. Item: I flamed at Google’s AutoLink and apparently every sentient being in both hemispheres thinks I’m out to lunch and is willing to say so loudly and publicly, except for the ones who tell me politely one-on-one. Consolation: The second half of the Pistons/Suns on HDTV, what a treat.
730 ongoing Days
· Two years ago today I turned this thing on. I mentioned it to Lauren last night and she said “Is that all?” Indeed. There’s really not that much to add to last year’s anniversary remarks, except once again to offer thanks to those who read, and especially those who write back, in their own space or directly. ongoing these days is not growing faster than the whole blogosphere, probably because my job is so interesting that it consumes a higher and higher proportion of my creative energies (the last couple of days I spent hours and hours building a project framework on an internal wiki). But the blogosphere is growing, and fast; it’s a good thing to be part of.
Lend a Hand
· We really all ought to do something to help all those folks around the Indian Ocean who are hurting pretty badly right now. A particularly quick and easy way to do so is via Amazon; I should probably have gone through the Canadian Red Cross, but with these things, quicker is better, so I used Amazon. If you want to be impressed, wait a few seconds and refresh that page and watch the numbers go up. Even better, help make the numbers go up. [Update: I felt a little guilty about ignoring the home side, so I checked out the Canadian Red Cross and it’s real easy to donate there too, and these days, Canuck Bucks go further.]
· “I’ve seen the future” sings Leonard Cohen, “and it’s murder.” Me too, but it looked like a hotel lobby. In particular, the lobby of the excellent W Silicon Valley, which is in Newark, just across the Dumbarton bridge from Sun’s Menlo Park office. My first meeting was early Monday so I flew down late Sunday and stayed at the W for the first time, despite the fact that Simon Phipps has been telling me to go there for months. Simon is right, I unhesitatingly recommend it. It’s a nice and relaxing spot, whose decor is rather well-done Euromodern. The lobby has running water, turquoise lights, lovely wood, weird-shaped sofas, and a civilized little bar that’s open late, where I got a bite and a beer. There’s WiFi in the bar, so I was online, and the only people there were me at a neatly-sidelit marble table, a geek on one of the big weird sofas also with laptop, and a couple sitting chatting softly to the bartender. There was some soft techno music pulse, just audible. If you’d put this on a movie screen in the 1950s it would have been a totally plausible Sci-Fi future. In late 2004, it’s just a glimpse of what more and more transient spaces are coming to look like.
· I just hit the publish button for the thousandth time, which is a good occasion once again to thank you, my partners out there in the Great Conversation. Maybe I’ll get bored but at the moment I couldn’t imagine not doing this. When I play Lego with the kid he’ll often ask “What are you making, Daddy?” and I’ll say “I don’t know, let’s see what it turns out to be.” The same is true not just of ongoing but of the millions of others who, given the freedom to write, write. A few (not me) may know what they’re trying to end up with, but as a group, we’re snapping together little bright-coloured pieces. Sometime, we’ll find out what we’ve been building. I can wait.
· At the joint where I stop for coffee most mornings, there’s a little notice taped to the counter for the staff. It says “One pound = 455 grams.” This has been bothering me for weeks. This morning something snapped and I said to the pretty sales-girl “You know, that’s wrong.” “What?” “It says 455 grams but it’s really 454.” “What?” “That little sign there, it’s wrong, there are really only 454 grams in a pound.” “WHAT?” She wasn’t parsing me, and I was getting rattled. I think I failed to charm her. Anyhow, there are really only 453.592.
· This morning, I received this email from an American, a famous name in the tech business: So, what is it really like to live in Canada relative to the US? How are the public schools? What's the real story with health care? How's the cost of living in Vancouver or Montreal vs. Seattle? On one hand, as a citizen of the world, I think that it’s generally dangerous when the USA gets as badly out of tune with the rest of us as it is now, and thus it would be nice if the best Americans stayed home and helped fix things. On the other hand, as a patriotic Canadian, I know that we have regularly benefited from the arrival of smart, disaffected Americans. So herewith a few notes on what it’s like here ...
· In the last day, three Web fragments’ glitters tickled my mind’s eye enough to pass ’em on. Britt Blaser’s remarkable Reel Courage is about the U.S. election but speaks from a different experience and quotes Solzhenitsyn, both good things. In the geek spirit, Dave Sifry is having serious fun mining his own data: he’s posted parts one and two and I’ll be waiting for the rest. Finally, Jeff Hodges sent me a pointer to Phil Agre’s home page, which has some seriously good stuff on it; my favorite was How to Help Someone Use a Computer.
· Canadian Thanksgiving, that is, today, October 11th; I won’t be working much. So, late on Thanksgiving eve I say thank-you to the world for being what it is, and to my family and friends for being what they are, and to the people at work for the good stuff there. And I’ll throw in a photograph of the Autumnal bounty ...
· I just dropped by the WFP to make a laughably small contribution to the relief of a monstrously big problem. If enough other people do so, the relief may become noticeable. Do the world a favor, drop a few bucks in the pot and pass the word on. Maybe bloggers can contribute a little more than talk to the world? [Update: Jeremy Keith and Chris Rauschuber have passed the word on—good on ya—and Anjan Bacchu did a little something. Anybody who’s still thinking about it, read this, then, as they say, just do it.]
· Went to the ballpark and, while minor-league baseball is supposed to be about chilling out, it suddenly got intense. Plus I took pictures of the fireworks ...
Looking For a Gig
· Welcome to 2004! I’m looking for something new to do, as in job-hunting. [Update: I’ve accepted a job, starting March 15th. I’ll write about it then.] ...
· Three legs Vancouver to LA to Sydney to Melbourne, best part of 24 hours elapsed, looking forward past the sore butt to the brilliant light and awfully-nice people Downunderway. But it may get kind of intermittent in this space. Y’all keep the Internet running, hear me?
Open Source Person
· I thought it might be entertaining to give a blow-by-blow account of my job hunt here, naming names, trading off pluses and minuses, telling all. Then it dawned on me how incredibly clueless and lame-brained that would be. But I do have some vignettes—one notably optimistic for our profession—and a couple of pictures, and also an explanation of the essay’s title, which doesn’t mean what you think it does. [Update: Found! Jonas the G.J.S.L.w.n.e.] ...
Hunter’s Martian Eyes
· In Barry Lopez’ Arctic Dreams (a beautiful and wise book) he laments the passage of the special relationship between the hunter and the landscape; A hunter—a real hunts-to-live hunter, not a plaid-clad suburbanite gun nut—has to as a matter of life or death study his surroundings with great care. I quote: “But the meticulous inspection of the land that is the mark of a good hunter becomes most evident when he uses a pair of good field glasses. Long after the most inquiring nonnative has has grown weary of glassing the land for some clue to the movement of animals, a hunter is still scouring its edges and interstices. He may take an hour to glass 360° of the apparently silent tundra, one section at a time.” In that spirit, go visit the very good Quicktime VR panorama of the Martian Surface, set the scene into a slow, slow drift (it’s easy with a trackpad), cultivate that hunter’s eye, and spend a half-hour looking at the horizon, and the sand, and the stones.
· An unexpected interruption here today, not working and time to think and time on my mind, so here are some words and pictures on the subject ...
On the Side of a Tire
· I was trying to get some work done and the kid was pestering me: “Show me some pictures on the computer, Daddy.” So went to Google Image Search, and said “What would you like to see a picture of?” “Ummm... a tire.” No idea where that came from, but easy enough. We looked at a couple of pictures of tires, and as a side-effect I found out How to read a modern Passenger Car Tire Sidewall. Some committee somewhere obviously invested serious time in working this one out.
· After months of drought, it rained today in Vancouver! It’s raining right now, and we’re all hoping the rain will move up-country, where the firefighters haven’t been winning many recently. The rain arrived accompanied by a big thunderstorm, a rarity here, and I was explaining to the four-year-old about lightning and thunder, and how you shouldn’t go outside because you can get struck by lightning. He said “And when elephants go out in the storm, the lightning hits them, right?” Er, I suppose. I don’t know. And for that matter consider the giraffes with their little hornlets like lightning rods. Is there no lightning on the African savannahs, or do the elephants and giraffes just get zapped sometimes, or what? [Updated: It happens, and it’s worth reading about.] ...
A Whole Lotta Mapping Going On
· One of the stats I occasionally run off the ongoing logs is for the (infrequent) views of the full-size versions of the pictures. I noticed that my Tokyo Transit map was very popular, someone had included it from a page out there. This is kind of irritating and I was thinking about banning them, but I thought I should look at the page, and my goodness, if you like transit maps, this is the place, check it out.
The Hunger Barrier
· I read something heartfelt and damning today that reminded me of stories my Dad used to tell. Today would have been his 78th birthday, but the Alzheimer’s finally got him just after his 77th. Mr. Touré and Mr. Compaoré, the authors of that article, are the Presidents, respectively, of Mali and Burkina Faso. Most readers will know little of these countries except that they are African and poor; their article explains one of the reasons they stay poor, and the remarkably simple and painless way we could make that problem go away ...
· Tuesday was Canada Day and we had a fine holiday; Friday is the Fourth of July, when our southern neighbour will be waving more flags than usual and its thinkers intoning on What America Means. In my forties and having had the luxury of seeing many nations up close, today I understand not at all what a nation is, what it means to be American or Bolivian or Japanese or Egyptian. But it’s a thing worth worrying about, and brought downstage centre by the coincidence of dates, and also by the fact that I’m having trouble evicting Old Glory from my menubar ...
The Picture of Happiness
· “... and they lived happily ever after” is a myth, because everyone’s happiness ends, happiness is a thing stuck in a moment or a morning or with luck a month. I was happy Sunday and this is a thing worth pondering, and there’s a picture too ...
· A family story this one, full of pain and filth, but mostly a launching pad for a full-on flame against the hellspawn who foist upon us the ultimate evil: Things That Work Differently For No Good Reason. Update: Argh, I was wrong! ...
Pix From Mars
· Slashdot had this today, tremendously impressive pictures of the Earth/Moon system and Jupiter, taken from Mars, the proper image credit is NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems. A bit mind-expanding; for me, it was the Earth and Moon seen in the same frame, from a distance, that for the first time made me feel like I really knew how big the pieces of the system are. Hats off to the people and machines who did this. But the pix are a bit too pretty. In fact, the photo-enhancement bothered me, so I deconstructed them a bit ...
· The ongoing software's been updated to adorn the front page with a photo for your viewing pleasure. Also, pages with pictures on them now use shrunken versions that link to separate full-sized ones, so ongoing should be much less arduous for those not in broadbandland. The software changes have been done for days and days on the laptop, where I've been watching to see if anything breaks and it looks OK, but Murphy is usually in there pitching so do please let me know if anything looks weird or broken.
· Long weeks of spring rain made the plants lush and strong and joyous, but it faltered today, we bathed in sun. Herewith some words and pictures ...
· I've been fiddling with this for some weeks, decided to tell a few people. I hate it when I hear that "Person X has a Weblog" and I go there and there's just a note saying "Hi! I have a Weblog!". So there's a hundred or so bits 'n' pieces already scattered around for your viewing pleasure. Dave claims to have the oldest blog, well for a few minutes on 2003/02/27, this is the youngest! ...
Bye-Bye, Old Friend
· I sold my 1995 VW Passat today, it's a fine car but it's been replaced. What a butt-load of paperwork. I snapped a last photo as it drove away. Snif.
Truth and Coffee
· Just across the street, a "Boutique Hotel" opened, very fashionable, very neighborhood-integrated. It has a coffee bar - one of about 5 within 2 blocks of the office. The coffee bar is funky, with mirrors and brass rails and Paris-café-style tables and chairs ...
Being Small at Starbucks
· Time was, Starbucks sold drinks in Short, Tall, and Grande. A few years back, they switched to Tall, Grande, and Venti, in a typical example of supersizing North-American food pathology. You might have thought "Short" went away. It hasn't; in most first-class Starbucks establishments (not including the ones staffed by Marriot-Host minimum-wage-slaves at airports for example) you can ask for a Short whatever and they'll do it for you ...
· The world, but particularly the United States, has had a tough week. For the moment, the bad guys are winning; we don't really know who they are, and across North America, while the lights may be on, nobody's home, in terms of getting on with life ...
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