We last spoke the end of last month.
It wasn't long ago.
Since then you have been in 5 cities, on 3 continents.
Been a far place.
(I didn't even have to check that website... I track you in my mind's eye and heart. ;)
We last spoke the end of last month.
It wasn't long ago.
Since then you have been in 5 cities, on 3 continents.
Been a far place.
(I didn't even have to check that website... I track you in my mind's eye and heart. ;)
2007-10-31 23050 start: Montréal -> London (one way) (3250km)
2007-12-10 53210 start: London -> Paris (211km)
2007-12-14 53210 finish: Paris -> London (211km)
2007-12-19 4446 start: London -> Tokyo (one way) (5947km)
2008-01-25 105515 start: Tokyo -> Aomori (359km)
2008-01-28 105515 finish: Aomori -> Tokyo (359km)
2008-02-13 61090 start: Tokyo -> San Francisco (one way) (5142km)
2008-02-21 61090 finish: San Francisco -> Montréal (5142km)
2008-02-23 117564 start: Montréal -> New York (332km)
2008-02-25 117564 finish: New York -> Montréal (332km)
2008-03-07 42339 start: Montréal -> Austin (1674km)
2008-03-12 42339 finish: Austin -> Montréal (1674km)
Will start writing again soon. Oh yes.
(written December 19th, 2006. Forgot to publish until December 31st, 2007)
My thoughts as I ride a taxi out of Delhi towards the domestic airport on my way to Bangalore, turn to the chaos, the disorder, the disarray, disrepair, destitute and abject poverty evident everywhere I looked in this city.
The saying is that "time is money", but this is a cruel trick; a slight of hand to keep one from seeing that when one has no money, time means little. Yes, even the poorest strive every moment for any rupee they can get, but it is out of purest survival and not the for the maintenance of the many layers of abstractions many of us, in the so-called "civilized" west, live in, removed from that most frightening point--the point where survival runs out.
I came here with an enormous sense of anxiety, the source of which I was not entirely clear on. I knew it was not work related, and though I thought I could chalk it up to apprehension towards the unknown elements of my travel plans, I knew it couldn't be that. I work well in adversity, I can flow with the moment.
"Please sir, two rupees," she said as she weakly presented some daily newspaper to me and mimed putting food in her mouth. Her eyes were dull. Almost dead. She was under ten years of age and perched here on the side of an overcrowded roadway, peddling whatever she could for survival.
I, on the other side of the open window, was in a taxi that was going to cost me 350 rupees. I rather not even think for one second how many rupees I just credited the last 3 nights in a 5 star hotel to without going flush, with a weight in my chest.
The taxi began to move again, but I was paralyzed.
(I have no illusions of the many faces of this coin: a few moments later, at the next intersection, two children came and begged and after another tortuous refusal, they both cracked huge mischievous smiles, the younger boy smacking me on the knee as they ran away laughing... It was not malicious, and I am not callous or over sympathetic; I laughed then too.)
The anxiety I had been feeling came from weeks of preparation for this horrible moment. Weeks of dulling my emotions, killing my heart and steeling up for the moment when another sentient human being came to me and asked for help that I could so ... SO easily and fluidly provide... and have to refuse.
Why refuse? I don't know. But the shock is tremendous.
As I pondered this, a scooter zipped by with the following admonition advertised on it's spare wheel cover:
"If your neighbor is suffering injustice and you can sleep, then just wait your turn."
for Joi (and others):
Click to see video.
I know this view from somewhere nearby.
running out the door on my way to Paris for XTech 2007. Lots of good friends, great people and new folks to meet!
eh oui! ciao.
Almost ready to go. My flight is at 5pm JST today.
Thank you to all my new and old friends here. I feel as if I have two homes now, truly.
Arrigato, and see you soon!
And to the folks at home... get ready... all things change.
I packed only two pairs of black cords for this trip (because that's all I had been wearing all fall.) Almost two months ago I acquired a pair of cheap tapered camo cargo pants.
Before all this I had worn nothing but jeans for the last five or six years.
I needed to get back into my jeans. Somehow, however, The Gap just didn't bridge it anymore, and Diesel fueled no more desire.
A week and a half left. I am feeling the way I always do at this point:
Can't wait to get home... but don't want to ever leave.
This visit was both devastating on some levels and elevating on others. I've dug roots in a good amount deeper, and am happy for it. I've made connections that will not only make it even easier for me to come back on a regular basis, but also make me want to even more. (I bet you didn't think that was even possible. ;)
But for now, I tuck in and try to make sure I get to see everyone one last time before I go, do all the work I need to do (launching GVO redesign as soon as I touch the ground in Montreal) and enjoy it all.
ja matta, ne.
The view above is common in Tokyo: rough, old and weathered giant stone block walls. Images of ninja scrambling along them... er I digress.
Walking back to Shibuya from Harajuku a few weeks back, I noticed this wall:
Obviously, some recent repair work had been done and a section of the wall renewed. However, I wondered why these new blocks were so dirty, and the older ones not? There was no puddle of mud on the road that could have splattered, even if so perfectly avoiding the old wall, onto them.
Upon closer inspection:
What is that? Why is there so much crap splattered over all these... oh wait a minute. This isn't dirt splatter; this is half rotten wood! Half rotten wood chips IN the concrete blocks!
Wood chips are mixed into the concrete blocks. Over time, with humidity and rain and temperature changes, the wood expands and contracts and accelerate surface erosion of the concrete blocks, giving them a nice, ancient, weathered rock look and feel, probably within a few months.
How great is that? It's a good thingTM
If you ever need the Bangla keyboard mappings and some fonts for Mac OS X, Apple conveniently links to them.
Be prepared though...
It's like being there!!! ;)
Oops, you'll need some fonts with that. Thank you come again.
Why do I need them? Rendering issues.
I had planned to spend some time this weekend hacking out the "featured article" functionality for the GlobalVoices redesign. It's the last big piece that needs doing and we have a Thursday EST deadline to show off a final version of the site. I'm not hugely worried about it, I just wanted t get it done.
I was up until 4am last night (instead of going to an event in Shibuya), and I just missed an afternoon at the 10th Japan Media Arts Festival with Paul, because I badly needed to finish some XML API endpoints for the maps Mike is making for us, and just before running off I discovered a huge snafu in the private pinging infrastructure I developed for our new distributed translation network. (just wait till you see this... insanity.)
(i screwed up the chinese characters a bit due to DB encoding issues. This will bite me in the ass one day...)
But that's all done now. It's quarter to 4. And in about an hour Paul will ping me to head to Yokohama for some Information Design thing and hopefully some dumplings. w00t.
or at least cover your ears.
Zipped out to Soft in Shibuya last night for Juliana vol.3. It was even better than last month's. Just completely mental.
Videos, of terrible quality, and excessive volume (my ears are still ringing), but hopefully give some idea of the heat.
"Synth Handclaps are the 'more cowbell' of today. More synthclaps!"
You should subscribe to Digiki's Polypunk podcast. It's bustin' it old school. Damn, these beats are so fresh... ssssnap!
Turned around at one point and saw this dude who looked familiar so I, and this is something I do far far too rarely, strike up a conversation of sorts. Asked him what he thought. "Man, it's a Sunday night. I feel like I'm having a religious experience!" Three questions later and it turns out he used to hang out at Blizzarts on friday nights for Brass Knuckles Krew, when he was studying at McGill. Small. World. Peter, dude who's name rhymes with "papaya" says hi.
Afterward, Carsten (Sony CSL) and Verena (PingMag) invited me to Combine. Really like this little place on Meguro-gawa in Naka Meguro. Despite being quite drunk, I used my mobile to poll for wifi: oh yes, Combine has a free open hotspot. Eeeexcellent. Really enjoyed the company. Danke vielmals!
Message to the girl with the bob hair, black tights and god-knows-what-that-shiny-black-material-your-shirt-was shirt, play-boxing dance stylee on stage right: I'm in love.
A Sunday night, in a tiny basement space, from 7 till 11pm. "All ages". This is all very deceiving. By about ten the room was completely off the hook with wikkedly mixed hard house hip hop electro clash insanity. "Smack my bitch up" indeed.
HARDCUT HOMECUT and Digiki were the highlights as far as I am concerned.
Literally stumbling out at 11, it was hard for me to believe it wasn't 5am and I hadn't been dancing all night... and wishing it was and I had. That was the most concentrated dose of "night-out insanity in 3 hours" in a long time. Hope I'm still around for the next one. :)
or How a four hour flight can take a day (3320.20 km)
Wake up at 6:30am.
- check email
- finalize packing
Leave hotel room at 7:30am
- walk up to main street
- hail a cab, drive to Central/Airport Express Terminal
Check-in. (Oh yes, very cool, you can check in from the train station just before you get on the train to the airport. Bonus: you check your luggage too!)
Get on Airport Express, depart at 8:00am
Arrive at Hong Kong Airport at approximately 8:30am
- Security check
- Security check
- Sit at gate for half an hour :p
- Security check (wtf?)
Board plane at 9:35am
Takeoff at 10:05am
Fly fly fly. 3 hour and 20 minute flight. Change +1 time zone.
Arrive Narita, Japan at 2:30pm (gee where'd the time go?)
- Baggage claim
- Customs ("ohhh you speak some japanese?" - " ehhh chotto..." - "Have a good day!" :D
Buy ticket for next Limousine Bus to Shibuya; in ten minutes, 4:10pm (whaaa?? where'd that hour and half go!?)
Depart on bus toward Shibuya at 4:20pm (bus was late! scandal!)
Arrive at Shibuya Marc City Excel Hotel at 5:30pm (yay downtown traffic!)
Fight Shibuya station congestion to get to Tokyu Toyoko line, board train at 5:45pm.
Arrive at Jyugaoka at about 6:00pm. Stop in for some sushi, get some groceries, walk to Labo.
Well, I've had Dim Sum in Montreal's Chinatown (multiple locations), New York's, Toronto's, Vancouver's, San Francisco's and now finally Hong Kong... and I can say this:
It tastes pretty much exactly the same everywhere.
Big cheers for consistency, people. Possibly one reason why it is one of my very favorite foods.
(I must also say that "chinese" BBQ duck and pork seems to follow the same standards. Do the Cantonese have the "authenticity" trick down pat? hehehehehe ;)
Contrast this to the fact that I have never had the same vietnamese PhÃ³ twice, not even at the same spot!
(and I am not complaining; also greatly enjoy vast variety and surprise... mostly... ;)
... and perhaps I am exaggerating just a bit...
warning: proceed with caution.
Shenzhen Airlines, China's largest private carrier, has signed an agreement to transport donated corneas and other human organs for free.
Fantastic. I'm in Hong Kong and I've had diarrhea for the last 6 hours and could really use a new lower intestine and asshole.
you were warned. ;)
nothing is real.
Once it's made, once it's shipped, once it's slipped past customs, once it's settled lightly in some temporary location, then you still need to find it. There are no insider announcements, no camping sessions lining up to buy the goods the second they hit the shop, no fevered eBay auctions for the newest of the new, and there is almost no way of knowing how many were made and how many more will follow. Value and excitement both tend come from the thresholds, and nothing navigates the thresholds of taste and legality like a counterfeit good. These are the real artifacts of the industrial age, the goods with real stories. Goods you can wear both with pride and without fear of harming their secondary market value. More authentic than any brand can hope for, welcome to world of the authentic counterfeit.
Brand is also a marketing trick. So is ego.
And all of them point to the negation of joy, surprise, awe.
Enjoy it ALL.
How to tell this story without getting into the technical details and revealing by what method I prioritized tasks, and still manage to convey some of the insanity that visited itself upon me today?
Let's just say that the last two days were a storm of almost each and every one of my currently active "clients" contacting me:
- moderately urgent glitches that were rather annoying (a wayward new plugin causing comments to bounce off of Joi's blog)
- a project for Technorati JP that's in final stages before going live and I forgot to import the most recent posts from the temporary site (oops heh)
- come to think of it GVO's been pretty quiet... except for the fact I have two deadlines looming for February.
Also, an old friend back in Montreal needed to borrow my skis, so I had to hook him up with my house-sitter, who informed me the WiFi was down at the apartment, so I hooked her up with Michael...
Electronic notifications of bills due for payment came in, making me realize I'm pretty damn low on cash myself and need to invoice a few folks too... immediately!
All of this while I am sitting in a windowless office in the basement of the Journalism and Media Studies Center at Hong Kong University, desperately trying to figure out why the blogfarm we are setting up refuses to post embedded videos AND chinese characters (admittedly important things for them, right?) before Rebecca and I give the faculty a crash-course in how to use this stuff.
At one point I just sat back and thought: nowhere to run man; just gotta do 'em one by one.
As of 1:30am, only one of these remains unsolved. Ethan, asap, I swear...
Arrived in Hong Kong last night. So far so good. Haha. Just a quick note to say so. More later. ;p
Some pics from Rebecca of where I'll be spending the week.
Every time I come to Japan, the biggest frustration is getting a mobile phone. This time it's not a phone I need (I have two I could use) as much as just a connection. It seems that will be just as hard, if not harder to pull off.
Besides my keitai from 6 months ago, I also have my Nokia N80 which works on the 3G network here. In fact, I've got signal right now, but it's on roaming via my provider back home. Hello $3 a minute. And remember I disabled data/GPRS. SMS doesn't really exist here. Or rather, you don't really exist here if you can't email from your mobile.
So not only do I not exist here yet to all the people I know (and who are not necessarily IM or PC email contacts), but also all those people have ceased to exist for me... because the Address Book in my keitai was wiped. (The address book is the heart of your social network)
I'm going bat5h17 stir-crazy here. I need a mobile connection. ;)
The big question mark here is: are SIM cards in japanese keitai software-locked to the device they are in? I popped someone's SoftBank SIM into my N80 and it jumped on the network, but stupidly we didn't try to DO anything with it, like place or receive a call. I'm betting setting the device up for email in such a scenario is a P.I.T.A too.
The carriers, and in fact the law, here make it so hard to even just get an account, that no-one has tried this yet, or rather, it is so rare and specialized knowledge, it just isn't available.
So yeah... crazyyyyy...
I just had lunch with Mika who graciously allowed me to try her SIM card in the N80. After asking for her unlock code, the phone immediately jumped on the network. We successfully made a phone call AND, most importantly, I was able to send an email via the 3G. (i.e.: the network's data access point was autodiscovered and added to my available Access Points.)
This means that one solution is to find someone to get me a cheap phone+plan, and pull the SIM card out. ;)
This morning, I picked up Jeremy, my erstwhile assistant who had been backpacking around Delhi for the last 2 weeks, at Shinjuku station.
As soon as we boarded the Yamanote train, heading for our connection at Shibuya, a Berlitz commercial came on on the advertisement/information screens: "1 Minute English!"
These ads are, by rule, hilarious (check out the german coast guard one if you haven't already seen it; "hallo? vat are you sinking about?"). They usually feature a young foreigner in a suit giving a very quick english lesson.
Today's phrase: "have a cow"
Jer and I sort of stared in disbelief, stunned for a second before cracking up. A moment later, they give us a context, in which such a phrase might be useful...
"If I go drinking tonight, my wife will have a cow."
Welcome to Japan Jeremy. :)
I've got some catching up to do here (no guarantees I will though) but this is just to say: I'm in Tokyo, at the JoiLab. Amen.
I've seen a lot I need to process. It was awesome. Now starts phase two of my trip, and as expected, much has become much clearer, and new avenues have presented themselves that I will explore. Good stuff.
From The Hindu, December 20th, 2006:
"Soft drinks banned within premises of educational institutions, hostels"
The State Government has issued a fresh ban against the sale and distribution of all soft drinks, including Coca-Cola and Pepsi, within the premises of educational institutions and student hostels with effect from December 18 citing "health hazards to children."
Unlike the earlier occasion when high pesticide content was cited as the reason for banning the sale of soft drinks in educational institutions, the Government had now cited health problems such as child obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis and tooth cavities caused by the consumption of soft drinks.
The head of the PepsiCo in India had recently issued a statement that as a matter of policy the company did not promote the sale of carbonated beverages to children aged below 12, the Minister said.
As I write this, back where I come from it is Tuesday 6:21am. Exactly 7 days ago at this moment I was waking up to start this trip. Now I am some 6 kilometers above rural southern India, on my way from a 30 minute stopover in Pune, to Bangalore for a few days.
I love regional airlines: they are like flying buses. SpiceJet runs a pretty tight modern operation. Anyways.
So, seven days ago...
Turning the corner from Napoleon onto St-Laurent, as I pass Laika, I look into my rearview mirror to see the sun rise over the Main. I'm racing north to meet Steven at Cote Vertu metro. He will relieve me of my car when we get to the airport.
As soon as Jer arrives and says goodbye to his girlfriend, we check in. Our gate is in the spanking new terminal. I satisfy my curiosity and find the "Maple Leaf Lounge", the Aeroplan members only affair, only to be sorely disappointed: while the whole airport has been renovated, the lounge has quite decidedly not. The public washroom in the terminal is in much better shape. :p All the free coffee and leather seats mean nothing if the toilet is a dump. Ahem.
I haven't really slept in three days and so I struggle to stay awake through the flight to Toronto and the stopover. Once on board AC001 to Tokyo, I see I have won the lottery for once: a full center row of four seats *to myself*. I secure my position, get entrenched, stretch out and pop a sleeping pill. Yes, I was *that* asshole this time. Jaa-ne!
Customs at Narita is always a pleasure. Once through, I quickly do my baggage reconfiguration--my backpack for India was stored in my suitcase, which I then relegated to Takyubin (Jer loved the "mother cat carrying kitten" logo. It is very striking.) for delivery to JoiLab to await my return. The Takyubin attendant laughed heartily when, shortly after asking me if I knew Japanese and having to help me with the form, I pulled out the little I do know, in perfect enunciation: "Ehhh chiotto matte kudasai... ah, hai, arrigato gozaimasu. Hai, hai, arrigato gozaimasta." pffff. Look forward to learning more this trip. :)
Called the shuttle which scuttled us out into the farmlands and dropped us off at the SkyPort hotel. Utilitarian. 'Nuff said. I slept while Jer picked the "meat" out of a vending machine cup-o-ramen and watched bizarre game shows.
JAL flight to Delhi was tight. Tight as in "holy shit these seats were designed for japanese children!" Sometime in mid-flight I realize the JAL logo contains a bloody katana blade. I wonder if JAL flies to Korea or China... ;)
We land in Delhi at 5:30 and it is already dark. Immigration is a cattle ranch/zoo which keeps us in queue for about an hour. Our luggage is already piled up in a corner when we make it to the pickup area.
After grabbing a taxi voucher from the "Delhi traffic police taxi stand", we head out. The taxi stand is a zoo. Five guys pass us over for our too-low fare to a shitty part of town.
Karol Bagh, who knew thee?
I don't know how to describe the area our hotel was in. It was certainly lively, and interesting... and dirty and noisy and nagging and decrepit and falling to pieces and... The Hotel Metro Heights was an oasis of sorts in the surrounding pandemonium. My room featured a toilet that had leaked a puddle and the beds were 10 year old foam pads. The room keys were the type they stopped using sometime in the 1800's. Oh well, settle in. At least the WiFi in the lobby works... sometimes.
It is, at this point, Thursday night.
Friday is spent in a meeting room in the basement of Hotel Metro Heights in a fascinating meeting about what to do to try to bridge african and chinese bloggers. This will come up again. Good stuff.
Late afternoon, Ethan Jeremy and I head out to eh India Habitat Center to test our gear for the next day. Stuff sorta happens, things sorta work and we manage to fry one of the WiFi AP's power adapters. I am dispatched to find suitable replacements at Cahn (sp?) Market, while Ethan zips off to a dinner I was originally invited to as well. "I'll be *damned* if I miss that dinner dammit!"
We find the power adapter in the first stall I duck into. Jer says he'll go exploring, I go find Ethan, Colin and "the Prof". (need to get details on this guy) I walk into the restaurant, proffer up the plastic baggy with the plugs and Ethan says "damn that was fast! you are the man!" Hehe, yes, yes I am.
At some point during dinner, it is decided that Ethan and I should liberate some beds at Metro Heights as the hotel has underbooked us and some f our people are being moved to an even less savory locale. Of course we graciously bite the bullet and... check ourselves into a 5 star hotel. Reduced rate not withstanding, this ate up my travel budget. ;p
Saturday is the first day of the GVO conference, open to the public. I literally spend the entire day wrestling our two WiFi access points. LinkSys WRT, I hate thee. Fun rooftop dinner sees me drunk off of two beers (or was it four?), and early to bed.
Sunday morning Jer and I present what we've been working so hard on for the last few weeks/months. It is all very well received. Much great feedback is given, many new ideas... much to do. The rest of the day is filled with mostly editorial discussions, which leaves me to have a rather painful exchange of emails with someone I love. C'est la vie. L'enfer c'est les autres. :\
I don't really remember the rest of that day except that included some milling about... oh right and a farewell dinner at a indo-chinese restaurant back in Karol Bagh called "Jade Palace" where they played hard electro music and I ordered "Mongolian Chicken" mere hours after hearing Ethan tell a story about a Purdue Chicken representative in Mongolia...
Ethan to me: "I cannot believe you ordered that..."
Early Monday morning, the GV heads have a debriefing, which goes more or less smoothly, and then head off across the street to a multi story, price regulated shopping complex. I try to think of gifts for others but my heart is heavy and selfish: I buy myself some coffee and tea for Tokyo, two silk "mufflers" (one deep red, one black), a 100% silk vest (quite thick and rugged) and some black linen pyjama. Oh, great, now I have to lug this around... ;)
This is when I go walk around: Connaught Place, down to India Gate, over to the Parliament Buildings (I think?), then a quick subway ride.
Before dinner, Ethan and I play two rounds of Quarto. We analyze the game and, since Ethan turns out to be a strategy game buff, even belonging to a group of friends who develop their own, I lose both. To my credit, only at the bitter end.
(this is getting long and boring isn't it... ;)
Tuesday I checkout and almost faint at the counter. Doh. Off to the domestic airport. Roughly 3 hours of travel time and some quite interesting views of Indian geography. I arrive in Bangalore, again around 5:30pm. It is 25 degrees celcius and there are palm trees. Mmmmm. Except that Bangalore is totally landlocked and a couple hundred kilometers from any ocean. So much for a beach vacation.
Jace has me meet him at Kochy's Restaurant, where i have a Kingfisher and seek kebab while I wait for him. Someone approaches me and says I look like "a journalist on the job, I must be from National Geographic." Nice. Sadly untrue.
Jace arrives and we rickshaw to his mother's friend's home for her birthday party, where we have dinner and a bit of conversation, then a ride from his brother to his studio apartment where I will hang out for a few days.
I spent today eating sweets, chasing a SIM card I will never get, and a few hours writing a grant proposal application back at Koshy's. The day ends at Jace's family home, a (second!) home cooked indian meal and omg, wifi! :D
(sorry if the story got dry... very tired...)
Arrived at Narita, staying overnigth at "SkyPort Hotel".
Slept most of the flight, thanks to sleeping pill and winning the seat lottery and scoring a full 4 seat row to myself. Yes, I was THAT bastard this time. ;)
Tomorrow morning we`re off to Delhi.
Leaving now. Fingers crossed. I leave with my post-conference, in-India plans a total shambles.
Two weeks from now I am arriving in Delhi.
A month from now, Tokyo.
The next 4 weeks are going to fly by in an instant, and then... and then... ?
Montreal -> Narita -> Delhi (4 days) -> Goa (beach 4-5 days) -> Bangalore (urban groove 4-5 days) -> Dehli -> Tokyo (who knows) -> Hong Kong (hopefully) -> Tokyo ... ...
Quarto is a board game for two players invented by Blaise MÃ¼ller.
It is played on a 4Ã—4 board. There are 16 pieces, each of which has four attributes:
1. large or small;
2. red or blue (or some other pair of colors, such as light or dark stained wood);
3. square or circle;
4. with or without a hole.
Players take turns to choose a piece which the other player must then place on the board. A player wins by placing their piece to make four pieces in a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal row, all of which have a common attribute (all small, all circular, etc).
Quarto is distinctive in that there is only one set of common pieces, rather than a set for one player and a different set for the other. It is therefore an impartial game.
In other words, the object is to be the first player to line up for pieces that share a characteristic (color, height, shape, hole-ed-ness). That means you are tracking multiple variables and extrapolating multiple possibilities. Now, to twist it around some, you pick pieces for your opponent to play. Any progress towards achieving your goal is purely thanks to oversight of your opponent.
Loads of fun and incredibly challenging. I ordered the travel size.
12DEC MONTREAL-TORONTO 12DEC TORONTO-NARITA 14DEC NARITA-DELHI 29DEC DELHI-NARITA 28MAR NARITA-TORONTO 28MAR TORONTO-MONTREAL
"Sumaato" have developed a ridiculously slick bookmarklet that uses the Google Maps API to allow even easier Flickr geotagging. A sweet feature made better by using Google's better maps ('specially for Japan ;)
Seriously. Look at this photo of the Torii in the Bay (Miyajima), or the Hotel in Hiroshima that survived the blast, or Daibutsu, the big buddha in Kamakura. I had no idea precisely where I was when I took these photos. Now I do. (the fact that I can find them on satellite photos is a combination of good sense of orientation, memory and patience ;)
Oh and this announcement--"Nokia acquires gate5 to add robust mapping and navigation to its devices"--can't be terrible either.
Obviously I am not going to go half way around the world and stay only two days. Some "hanging out" is in order. A few days early in Delhi to acclimatize and push back jet lag a bit. And then what? Three possibilities, none of them mutually exclusive: Mumbai, the Himalayas or a beach on the Bay of Bengal.
I should also start getting my ear used to the language(s) and learn a few basics.
For the last two weeks I have been dying for an excuse, any excuse, to be in Helsinki right now. The announcement of Matt Biddulph's Aula talk today comes a full 48 hours too late for me to do up and go. Flights went from $1,200 to $6,000 (cause I'd want to go tomorrow morning and not stay a week.)
My personal tragedies aside, I am very pleased and intrigued by the fact that the Aula folks, and entourage, are peeking into Open Data. Though, from the write up it sounds more like Open Content they are talking about...
Citizens for Open Access to Civic Information and Data (CivicAccess) is a group of citizens which believes all levels of government should make civic information and data accessible at no cost in open formats to their citizens. We believe this is necessary to allow citizens to fully participate in the democractic process of an "information society."
To encourage all levels of governments (county, municipal, provincial, federal) to make civic data and information available to citizens without restrictions, at no cost, and in useable open formats.
To encourage the development of citizen projects using civic data and information
Making civic data and information freely available to citizens is important because:
Citizen participation in decision-making is fundamental to democracy
Good decisions are made by informed citizens
Quality civic data and information are fundamental to keeping citizens informed in an "information society"
Taxes have already paid for civic data and information; therefore these should be made available at no cost to citizens
Citizen projects using civic data will generate innovative solutions to social, economic and environmental problems
Citizen projects using civic data will allow citizens to creatively plan their communities
This is what a democracy looks like!
In this context, Open Data refers to such information as government activities (like "TheyWorkForYou" and "OpenSecrets"), geographical data (hello all you geo wonks, salivating at Google Maps. Can you imagine what geographical resources your government, which you pay for, has access to?), and in combination with Open Content--cultural objects, like BBC archives, all the way to local event listings...
Sorry, distracted by work.. but you get the picture right?
Standing at the check-in counter at Narita last month, the white haired QuÃ©becois gentleman behind me started chatting when he heard me say "yes I am traveling through to Montreal, thank you."
"You know hif you leave for more t'an 6 months, they revoke your 'ealt hinsurance hey?"
Yow! So this evening I went digging for that particular piece of worrisome truth. Sure enough, 183 days in a calendar year (January 1st to December 31st.)
Ok phew. I'm in no danger of that at this point, and the gentleman was saying it was 6 months out of three years and that had me worried.
But I kept reading to see, you know, what if I leave for a good long bit. Not so bad really. If I move away, and come back I just reapply for it.
But on this page, I found the sweet sweet deal for me:
Persons who remain covered
- Self-employed persons who are carrying out a contact outside QuÃ©bec and whose usual place of work is in QuÃ©bec
Period of coverage
- Duration of contract
Required documents (photocopies)
- Contract between self-employed person and client
Why temporary quitter? In french, one way to say "to leave" is "quitter"... and it's in the URL of the information mentioned above. There's more than one pun in that URL actually.
Of course all of this is moot if I leave for good, however I'm not so sure if change of citizenship is something I can ever be bothered with really. Ah well, time will tell.
Even more personal note: reading this english page with QuÃ©bec written with the accent made it sound quÃ©becois in my head. As if Jean ChrÃ©tien were reading it to me... or that guy in the "I am not Canadien tabarnac" spoof.
About to settle into my last night in Tokyo. Three months. In 24 hours I am over the Pacific again, heading back to Montreal.
I feel anxious anticipation; I wonder how I will react to diving back into my old life, which now seems so distant from me. I know that I will immediately go buy my usual mid-summer groceries at Valmont. I will go have a pho on Cote des Neiges, I will hang out at Laika and go have a drink at Boa.
I will sit at my desk, in my apartment, eating a tomato and prosciutto salad after having taken a jog up the mountain.
None of these things are bad. They are, or at least where once, all highly enjoyable to me. But they are old. They are worn in, and out. Or so I think they may be.
This is what I anxiously anticipate. I *want* the routines to be broken. I won't know if they are until I go back to where they, and I, are from, and see.
And see I will. :)
An email confirming an IRC meeting made me realise my June 12th flight "home"... is on MONDAY. Monday, not Tuesday as I thought it was.
Not Tuesday as I had planned for it being.
Not Tuesday as I had worked so hard to accept it being.
Not Tuesday as I had somehow convinced myself I could leave on...
I won't go! You can't make me!!
Sigh. Relax man, get a grip.
So anyways, Air Canada will not take my money to upgrade my ticket. Absurd.
you're not likely to easily find online...
Where, exactly, at SFO is the FedEx dropoff located?
Searching FedEx's location finder, which requires knowing exactly which combination of checkboxes to toggle, produces a driving map to the airport. Useless.
SFO's website mentions postal services, but no direct bead on courier counters.
Searching Google gets me FedEx shipment terms to Canada. (Like it KNOWS I am shipping something to Canada. Creepy.)
So Friday morning I'll just show up an extra hour early just to be safe in case I have to run to some hinterland of SFO.
Unless any of you know SFO well enough to say "oh yeah dude it's right to yer left when ya get off the BART" or some such useful kind of info.
X marks the spot. When you exit the BART station, walk straight ahead. You will pass the International Terminal's security checkpoint on the left and, if memory serves, right after that there is a small travel agency which doubles as FedEx drop off counter.
Last night, after returning to the Stamen offices with Eric Rodenbeck and his wife Nikki to pick up my bag, we ended up in a raucous and rolling conversation while finishing off a bottle of Veuve Clicquot.
At one point, Eric produced this past Sunday's New York Times and read for us the following obituary.
May 7, 2006 Burt Todd, 81, Entrepreneur Who Dreamed Big, Is Dead By Margalit Fox
Burt Kerr Todd, an entrepreneur, adventurer and international deal maker whose quixotic dreams and outlandish schemes more than occasionally paid off, as when he introduced the postage stamp to the tiny kingdom of Bhutan or resold the gently used Rolls-Royces of down-at-the-heels maharajas at a handsome profit, died on April 28 at his home in Ligonier, Pa. He was 81.
The cause was lung cancer, his family said.
The son of a wealthy Pittsburgh steel, glass and banking family, Mr. Todd combined the larger-than-life appetites of an F. Scott Fitzgerald hero with the lust for adventure of a 19th-century explorer. His exact job defied description, though it entailed both the businessman's art of the deal and the confidence man's gift of the gab.
Officially, Mr. Todd was president of the Kerr-Hays Company, an importing and manufacturing concern, now based in Ligonier, that he founded in 1963. But even before that, and for many years afterward, his portfolio included advising heads of state — mostly of small countries in Asia and the Pacific — on attracting American investment. At one time or another, Mr. Todd counted among his friends the sultan of Brunei, the king of Bhutan and the premier of the island of Mauritius.
A dazzling raconteur, Mr. Todd never lacked for material. He flew airplanes and maintained an impressive collection of vintage cars. He hunted leopards and rhinoceroses and was once treed in Bhutan by a rampaging elephant. He knew everyone, could sell anybody anything and was for years the bane of Pittsburgh long-distance operators, who were obliged to patch him through to all manner of obscure places at all manner of ungodly hours.
Impulsive, expansive, incurably restless, Mr. Todd might bundle his family into their little jet on a moment's notice. His sense of direction was not the best, and they did not always wind up where they intended. It rarely mattered. Wherever Mr. Todd turned up, something exciting was bound to result: a marvelous story, a new friendship or perhaps a deal involving rum, seaweed or other interesting commodities.
"There was something like bat guano," his daughter Laura Todd Widing recalled in a telephone interview on Friday. "It's good for something."
Mr. Todd finessed his way into graduate school at Oxford despite having just a year of college; trekked hundreds of miles through Nepal and was the first American to visit Bhutan, the last of the forbidden kingdoms of the Himalayas.
He once tried to found a small kingdom himself, on a deserted coral reef in the South Pacific. Its entire infrastructure was to be built on postage stamps. His dream was dashed, he later said, after Tongan gunboats blew his island paradise to ruins.
Except for the gunboats, all of the above is true, Mr. Todd's daughter said.
Burt Kerr Todd was born in Pittsburgh on May 15, 1924, the son of Kirkland W. Todd and the former Kathryn Kerr. By his own admission an indifferent student, he attended the Choate School before enrolling at Williams College. After the United States entered World War II, he left to enlist in the Army Air Corps, where he became a radar instructor.
When the war ended, Mr. Todd decided he would attend Oxford. His academic record, or lack thereof, did not deter him. Oxford told him that enrolling was quite impossible: the only official who could authorize it was just then on his honeymoon in the remote Norwegian countryside. Mr. Todd flew to Norway, tracked down the official and promptly enrolled. At Oxford, his friends included a future leader of Fiji and the future queen of Bhutan, the first person from her country to study in the West.
Mr. Todd graduated in 1949 with a master's degree in law. Two years later, chafing in his family's glass business in Pittsburgh, he received a cable from the Bhutanese royal family inviting him to visit. There was no air service, and few roads. Entering Bhutan from India, Mr. Todd became one of the few Westerners ever to see the country. His account of his journey appears in the December 1952 issue of National Geographic.
In 1954, Mr. Todd married Frances Hays, known as Susie, and the couple honeymooned in Bhutan. Besides his wife and daughter Laura, both of Ligonier, Mr. Todd is survived by another daughter, Frances Todd Stewart, of Pittsburgh; a brother, Kirkland W. Todd Jr., of Nashville; and five grandchildren.
Retained as an adviser by the Bhutanese royal family, Mr. Todd was asked to help expand the country's economic base. He suggested stamps, and in October 1962, Bhutan issued its first regular postage stamps.
In other work, Mr. Todd helped Fiji to make rum and Singapore to market seaweed. In India, he persuaded maharajas in financial straits to part with their Rolls-Royces, which he resold to Western collectors. (One car, a convertible Phantom III, came with a pop-up silver chair to accommodate a footman.)
But it was for the Bhutanese stamps that Mr. Todd was best known. Serious philatelists dismissed them as curiosities, and indeed, under Mr. Todd's direction, the stamps grew curiouser and curiouser. Some were printed on silk, others on plastic.
Most famous were the "talking stamps," small rounds of grooved rubber that could be spun on a phonograph. One played the Bhutanese national anthem; another, a spoken-word stamp, had Mr. Todd delivering a very concise history of Bhutan.
Perhaps in tribute to his Pittsburgh roots, Mr. Todd also had Bhutanese stamps printed on steel. They had a distressing tendency to rust.
A life well lived. Remember to always do what you feel you must, and can. And feel as if you can do anything. Because you can.
Like sell Bhutan on the idea of talking stamps.
Thanks, Eric, for sharing.
(A Brooklyn Life agrees)
(a collage of conversations)
So, Boris, where are you from?
Montreal, Canada. But I just got here from Tokyo.
Oh wow, that's pretty cool. What are you doing in Tokyo? You must have big clients there who can fly you over?
Not really. I am working like crazy but not specifically for any single japanese client. I just went cause I wanted to and could.
Jees... ok... so what brings you to San Francisco? Client work?
Uhhh, no. I'm house sitting my friend's apartment and taking care of his cats for two weeks.
You flew half way around the world to house sit cats?
Well if you put it that way...
You must be really good at that...
Yes, obviously I am slightly crazy. Who else would hop the Pacific *just* to housesit cats. ;p
Among the many many lessons I am learning on this trip, one of the most salient, and indeed one that I pretty much knew about, is the fact that I am nowhere near as mobile as one would think, at least insofar as being able to work is concerned.
Like I said, I knew this already; it's just become very clear to what extent and much more importantly, what i can do to rectify the situation.
Outside of emailing and chatting, a 15" Powerbook screen renders me essentially useless. Trying to get any actual work done without a second monitor is near futile. I'd say that with a single 1440x960 resolution screen, I work at maybe 10-20% capacity.
My capacity increases with desktop space, measured in pixels. It's true.
(For anyone who cares to argue with or chide me: you have your needs, I have mine. I am aware of my needs, and my limitations, and I deal with them accordingly.)
Also, I need a comfortable work station. This means plenty of desk space (deep and wide) and a chair that doesn't send my butt to dream land. Pins and needles in the nether areas is not fun... at least not when yer trying to work. ;)
More than quiet, I need to isolate myself so as to really dive in. People can be around, as long as I can shut them out artificially.
So, this means, to be "work-safe", I need 3 things:
- an external monitor.
- some sort of reliable seating.
- a pair of headphones.
Check this out. (Picture above)
(Headphones not entirely needed if a reasonably quiet space is available with no language around.)
Point is, anytime I want to "temporarily relocate" as I am now doing (2 months Tokyo, 2 weeks San Francisco... where's next? Shanghai?) I can either FedEx or carry this bundle with me. Or, in worst case scenario, go out and buy what I need again...
"Boris will feed your cats AND leave you a TFT monitor!" heh...
I envy those of you who actually can work on 12" screens. I simply can't.
I also envy those of you who have only *one* job or three or four projects. I have at least 10 at any given time.
Actually no I don't envy anyone really... ;)
2:00am. Bar close. Big guy runs up behind me and then matches my walking speed.
"I've got a bottle of white wine... wanna party?"
"uhhh... sorry man..."
"ok, um, what else can i say.. uhh... blowjob?"
"ah. sorry man. don't swing that way... flattered but, sorry."
ahh San Francisco.
It's May 1st.
I don't know what day of the week it is.
I don't know how long I've been here.
I don't know how long I am staying "away".
I don't know if I am going to California next week, yet, but it certainly looks like I am.
I don't know if I'll make it to China 3 weeks from now.
I don't know.
I am moving forward though. I am moving forward.
I'm missing dancing. The long late nights in little cozy sweaty lounge clubs.
The breakbeat, rare groove, afro-electro-house.
The uninhibited moving, grinning, flirting.
Till 4 am.
Oh, I will be home soon. Just no set date yet.
New York Fries, which offers poutine on it's menu, has the incredible balls and audacity to claim:
"Invented in Quebec and perfected by New York Fries. A delicious marriage of New York Fries, fresh cheese curds and our signature gravy."
Excuse me? What?!? PERFECTED? Mon oeuil osti d'ciboire de tabarnac, calisse!
I HATE marketing SO much. ;)
I miss poutine. :p
I had a funny daydream waiting for my chashumen the other day...
Our house, in the middle of our street Our house, that was where we used to sleep Our house, in the middle of our street Our house, in the middle of our street Our house....
They yank out three little stools and take position at the large thick wood slab table.
They shout out their orders in time, as if counting down the start of the next song: "Shoyu!", "Miso!", "Chashu!"
Cue music: "Rock this town" by the Stray Cats.
As the waitress scuttles away with a gleeful "Haaaaaiii!", the three jump up... and start to dance.
We're gonna rock this town, rock it inside out We're gonna rock this town, make 'm scream and shout Let's rock, rock, rock man rock, rock We're gonna rock till we pop, We're gonna roll till we drop We're gonna rock this town, rock it inside out
Well we're having a ball just bopping on the big dance floor Well there's a real square cat he looks nineteen seventy four Well, you look at me once, you look at me twice, You look at me again there's gonna be a fight We're gonna rock this town, we're gonna rip this place apart
As the song ends, the three all at once return to their seats as their meals are plopped down before them.
"What a wonderful world" croaked out by Louis Armstrong takes us, through a retreating zoom-out, to fade...
I see skies of blue..... clouds of white Bright blessed days....dark sacred nights And I think to myself .....what a wonderful world.
"Air Canada Reservations, how can I help you?"
. . o o O O ( ( ( my visa's good till mid June ) ) )
I'm not coming home just yet. I hope you all understand.
Just when I had overcome the jetlag...
Between 2am trans-global conference calls between Tokyo, New York, Boston and London; 14 hour time-shift work schedules; and hanging out with Joi: I don't know, as they say, if I am coming or going.
I don't know how may days I have been here, at the lab. I think I may have seen 3 sunrises, and as many sunsets. I've been sleeping in 4 hour shifts. Somewhere in there I had some sort of mild food poisoning, which kept my head in a spin as well.
I am actually enjoying this. However, 90% of the work I have accomplished has been almost purely email writing. I have at least 3 jobs I need to "work on" for 4-5 hours at a stretch.
Today I am alone here. After a shower and a chocolatine, I'll dig in.
It's 9:00 am, I've been up since 2, with a 2 hour nap in there somewhere... I've set up a reBlog on a server in New Zealand, tested a Flash based IRC client from France, chatted about small circles as gleaned in Austin, created a development test blog at Harvard, and answered more emails than I can remember. Fun!
on lies: a necessary and healthy feature of sociality is lying. Lying is a feature, not a bug. The great dream of a utopian society is a system where lies are not necessary; the great nightmare, one where it is not allowed or even possible. That said, realizing you have been lied to, can be... very painful.
Fumi: what do you want to be when you grow up?
Me: I am what I want to be: myself. And I never want to grow up!
(I was very surprised myself to hear these words cross my lips.)
When I am here, strange colors appear in my life. I have bought a pair of socks; deep red. I have bought an umbrella; muted orange. What next?
I am doing a giant cleanup of my apartment before I leave so that my house-sitter, Steven, doesn't feel like he's living in my junk, but also it's just a good opportunity to do so, and get rid of a lot of stuff, if not just rearrange it.
For instance I have completely redone the shelving arrangement in the living room, and thus all the books that once were strewn all over the place are now neatly stored.
However I have a problem I cannot so easily fix: I've got too much seating.
There are 5 seats that never ever get used, at least 3 of which there is literally no room for in the place: an office chair, a kitchen chair and a single sofa chair (teak and black leather).
That's not to mention the two antiques, one of which serves purely as a place to drop stuff when I enter, and the other as dust-ball gatherer, perched atop my kitchen cupboards.
Brining these all out to my mother's would require two trips in the Golf... or recruiting someone with a bigger SUV/van type of thing...
I just changed my flight and booked a hotel room in NYC for tomorrow night.
I've got a 9:00am meeting in Times Square and had a flight leaving Montreal at 6:00am. That means being at Dorval at 4:30am. That means waking up at 3:30am.
I usually go to bed around 3:30am... Imagine how useful I would be in that meeting if I did that.
So, I fly out tomorrow night at 7:30pm and sleep a full night's sleep. Worth the Times Square hotel rates, for sure.
Was just looking at the metro map for Tokyo to see what some of my daily commutes might look like this time around. VERY sweet. Everything within reach.
Direct from Shimo-Kitazawa:
- Shinjuku (and from there up to Ushigome Kagurasaka of course ;)
Within one transfer:
I had to do this. It may seem insane to take off now but I have to do this. The next 3 weeks are going to be off the hook as I wrap up old work and engage all the new stuff. I am really looking forward to this temporary relocation, and I am equally looking forward to getting back in time for CHI2006 and spring in Montreal.
Also hoping to hop over to Beijing and Shanghai while I'm out there. Might as well, right?
I retreated from the extreme heat here today to the little air conditioned café down the street. Sitting on the table I installed myself at was today's Globe & Mail. At the bottom of the front page (hah! I almost said "homepage!" Cripes.) is an ad for some Air Canada seat sales to Europe.
Amsterdam/Zurich, September 12th / October 16th : $449.00cnd!!!
Oh I could so do with a trip over right around then. Berlin, Vienna... mmmmmmm.
Too bad the Ars Electronica festival is exactly one week before the sale starts. :\
It appears I will be in California early next week. L.A. to be precise. I'm thinking I will do my usual "taking advantage of a paid flight" and perhaps stick around a bit longer. Take care of business then road trip it up to San Francisco.
Anyways, show of hands (via email)... who wants to hang? :)
Ok so we've all seen Google Maps in action right? Just for kicks (like I have time) I asked for directions from my place here in Montreal, to Aaron's in Vancouver.
Nevermind that it seems to be totally oblivious to the fact that we have the Trans Canada Highway which would take me clear across in one shot, and so it tries to send me down though the U.S. (fat chance!), but its distance/trip duration estimate is kinda funny...
3070 mi (about 1 day 21 hours)
Let's see, that works out to driving 68mph for 45 hours straight. Driving that fast for that long poses not only a serious health risk, but I imagine I'd get arrested a few times along the way.
Would Google care to factor in speeding ticket costs? ;)
I woke up this morning, still in Vancouver, and I am still here, about to go, and my mind is already home and it is already moving as if it were already home, i.e. I am thinking again like myself, from within my head.
Maybe it's just Aaron's coffee. Zing!
I awoke, my heels on fire, knowing what I needed to do.
After washing my face and brushing my teeth, I called the airline:
- “Hello I'd like to change my departure booking please.”
- “Sure. For when?”
- “As soon as possible please.”
- “I have 8:30am or 11:00am...”
- “Let's make it eleven. Thank you.”
I am a fickle and sensitive creature of comfort... not a rolling stone. Mock me for this if you must but remember: you're not the one who has just spent the last 5 weeks inside other people's lives, and outside your own.
I am nothing now... but exhausted.
I need to go home. I need to sleep, a good long sleep. I need to find my self in my dreams again. I need to work through and remold my self with all I have learnt.
This trip has been extremely taxing; financially, emotionally, psychologically, physically. I am happy and grateful for having done it and the kindness shown me along the way... but now... I need to go home.
(Even if it means freezing my ASS off... brrrr... ;)
Boris, February 2005, Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan.
Karl, January 2005, Taipei, Taiwan.
I've been on a lot of flights, to many places, at all hours of day and night. I've seen mountains, I've seen oceans, Aurora Borealis and the thin line where the sky turns dark.
Above the Bering Straight, looking south down the international date line from thirty-five thousand feet, at midnight, I see... nothing. I see nothing but a few, no, many, oh so many points of light. The curvature of the Earth faintly made out by total darkness, wherelse there are stars.
One imagines nothingness as a backdrop, a black curtain around us. At this moment, even at this altitude, the infinite is a mere canopy floating over my head but with a simple trick of the eye, a trick of the mind, some imagination and perhaps some faith, nothingness becomes a blanket that for a second wraps me up... and I am nothing as well.
Constellations become stars, stars become light sintered through where the blanket's weave is loosened.
Well, that's it. I have a flight to catch. Thanks to all who helped me out, let me crash, bought me drinks/food and otherwise spent some time with me!
I'm off to Vancouver now for a two week stint. Wheeee!
Coming around from Akihabara on the JR Yamanote line this evening, I would catch little glimpses of a sky that could only be produced by a glorious sunset. Having just passed Ebisu, the rail line was now deep in a trench and all I could see were these golden fringed little clouds, and a few glints off of office tower windows.
I stood at the window, camera aimed, thinking "Damnit, c'mon! Gimme a view!"
Pulling into Meguro, I wondered where I could get to, right now, to actually get some horizon.
Then I remembered.
The doors were closing as I exclaimed "Sumi masen!" and pushed my way through the other passengers and dashed out onto the platform, up the stairs, through the gates. "Baka gaijin" they must've thought.
I ran the whole half a kilometer to that one spot I knew I could get a sunset shot of Mount Fuji from.
If I read one more weblog entry talking about tags and/or folksonomies, I'll wretch (cow tongue sashimi, too much red wine and a bumpy cab ride through Tokyo not required).
If your RSS/Atom feed doesn't contain full entry text, I am ditching you from my subscription list. Sorry. If you want to know how to fix this, contact me, I'll be more than happy to advise. Toll free.
Fido better upgrade my P900, which seems to have gotten fried in the X-ray machine at Dorval Airport. They better upgrade it to a P910 as soon as I get to Vancouver.
That didn't help. I'm gonna go plant my ass in a café in ... gees I dunno... I'm sick of Omotesando... :p
I'm sitting in the Good Day Café, just off Aoyma Itchome/Omotesando (search me how the street names work in this place...) in Harajuku, Tokyo.
I spark my NewsReader, go to my folder of Montreal RSS subscriptions... and I am 100% back in Montreal. I read about an impromptu YULBlog (Montreal bloggers) night out on the town, I am transported back 2 weeks as slowly other locals blog about the Open Da Nite fire.
I break my reading, look up, and am shocked by my environment: a café packed with japanese ladies chit chatting. “Ahhh so so so so so... Hontoni? Sugoi da neeeehhh!”
Now if only I could do the same and “inject myself” into a quiet and comfortable work space... :p
Here's how the last 60 hours or so of my life went by.
Let's begin at 10:00 am EST Tuesday January 11th, 2005.
I awake with the knowledge that this would be the last real rest I would get until my arrival in Tokyo, many many moments away. It is 22 hours before my flight, and I have lots to do. After checking email and IM'ing for a few minutes (yeah yeah yeah), I begin my mad dash around Montreal. First to St-Denis Street, to pick up my last cheque from an old client. Our business relationship over, this last payment will cover all the last minute stuff I need to buy and my first two weeks of public transport in Japan.
Downtown, I illegally park in a "reserved for diplomats" spot and run into the national Bank of Greece to buy some Yen. Go figure, they have the best rates apparently... Pull around the corner and flashers blinking run into Future Shop to pick up a CD/DVD wallet.
Needing to visit my sister to pick up a key to mom's house, I call. She's not ready. I am starving. I stop in Chinatown for a Pho. On to sister's, stopping on the way at the Salvation Army to drop off another bag full of old clothes. Waste not want not. Hung out at sis' for roughly 45 minutes, almost falling asleep on the couch for some reason... Go home.
By this time it's become about 4pm. Laundry time. Pack it up, haul it down. What I always do when I do this is put the laundry in the washers, run home and do dishes, run back to put laundry in dryers, back home to vacuum, back to laundromat, fold, pack and schlepp it all back home. I take at least 2-3 washers and dryers, and get everything done in under 2 hours. This is commando action. I'm german, right?
About 6pm and I start losing it. Somehow I get stuck on the computer doing not much really. Limbo. I've sorta packed, mostly not. Without realizing it, it's now 9pm. Damn. Wash out the cat litter, collect kitty's stuff... we gotta go! Drop cat off at Caroline's. All goes well until for some unknown reason - do they ever have one really? - Emma decides to take me down a notch and cuts me a nice red line down the edge of my palm. Love you too, you bi... damn, that smarts!
It's 10 o'clock and Anders is waiting for me. He's late for his hockey game, he's holding some music CDs he's made for me and to top it off this is our last goodbye for at least a year as he is moving to Turkey to start his Master's degree. Done. Take care dude, cya on IM!
Now for the car. I have been all over the greater urban area of Montreal today... time to hit the suburbs. Good friend Steven meets me in Pointe Claire on my way to drop off the Golf at mom's in deepest Pierrefonds. An hour and a half and a stop at Fairmount Bagel later, I am home. No cat, no car, last inning, and what I thought would be a long night suddenly hits fast forward. I have no idea what happened here, but basically all of a sudden it is 4am and I am only partially packed, not showered, not even prepared... Panic. Flight is at 8 am. That means be at the airport at 6-6:30am, that means call a cab at 5:30ish...
Bang bang bang. Done. It is better this way. No time to endlessly debate which t-shirts to bring or leave behind. I catch myself fiddling about trying to stuff Q-Tips into a little travel case and have to wonder out loud "just what the f**k do you think you're doing?!"
As I put on my jacket, the taxi pulls up and I spot that cheque I had picked up that morning. OMFG. I forgot to cash it. It is 6:10am and I have to make the taxi cab driver take a detour to my bank. Thankfully the he has some brains and I don't have to ask him to step on it.
Check in, queue up, take it all off and out, put it all back on and in, sit and wait. Fly away. The in-flight movie is some god awful period piece. I refuse to watch. Five hours later we land in Vancouver. Taxiing to the terminal I ask the nice guy next to me what he's doing in Vancouver. He's an independent academic doing work and research to try to spread the reconciliation of God and science. No shit. Note to self: next time ask that question when taxing FROM the terminal. He tells me he admires and is somewhat jealous of my freedom and independence. I don't tell him what a basket case I am because of my freedom. Nor do I tell him how I am somewhat jealous of his ability to believe something. ;)
"Stuck" looking at the monumental views of the mountains around Vancouver from the boarding gate, I think "damn I wish I'd hang out here for a bit", before remembering "oh yeah.. I will be in 4 weeks..." It is a heavy burden I carry. :p
What the hell was that I ate? Turkey wrapped in a red tortilla with some weird dill/ranch dip? Why do yuppies hate food so much? Why am I sucker for crap like this? Damn. Six bucks worth of blandness.
There is nothing I can say that can make you understand the pain of a 10+ hour flight. Most of you have done it, so you know. Mercifully the plane was 1/3rd empty and I managed to snag a row for myself in the back. The stewardesses were very nice with me. In-flight movies and programming, in sequence: Cat Woman (minus 5 stars, two thumbs down, someone should get shot for this one), an hour of "Bewitched", Rocky 1 ("Yo Adriaaaane!"), a Discovery channel special on major oceanic disasters (way to go, sensitive programming!), "I, Robot" (I, want-you-to-give-me-a-break).
For the record, i had the salmon and beef meals, respectively. Both wished they were teriyaki. I wished they'd just stop trying. I drank lots of green tea to forget.
We land, deplane, passport check (not even a glance at me), baggage pickup, customs. It must be said that that is merely a formality it seems. My luggage was about 40% stuff I was "smuggling in". "Omiyage" (gifts of local merchandise one brings when visiting or returning from visiting from a foreign place) is a magical word, especially when coming from the lips of a gaijin. After chuckling at my mouse and my 3 bags of bagels, the customs official asks, by pointing at an illustration, if I have any knives, guns or drugs to declare. I almost break out in laughter.
Through the glass doors and ... OMG OMG OMG I AM HERE! Whoooohoooooo!
Limousine bus ticket bound for Shinjuku Eki in my pocket, I grab a Pocari Sweat and a salmon onigiri... and smile wildly.
Two hours later, after a nice bus ride that took me over the Rainbow Bridge, past Tokyo Tower, and struggling though Shinjuku Station - one of the busiest, largest, most maddening patchwork of multiple trainstations in the world - I get off at the right metro stop, but am, for the lack of a better word... lost. Jim's handwriting, my reduction of his blurry photograph of the map he had drawn, and a poorly considered fold in the paper had me walk about 10 minutes in the exact opposite direction. Exit A2 instead of A1. And who would have thought that 10 minutes away from where you live, there is a street corner with the exact same combination of business as the one on the corner of your street... Food market and pizza joint. But this isn't the right street, for sure. Ichigome Kagurazaka is an infinitely looping mirror image of itself! Aaaargh! Or maybe I should have tried harder to sleep on that flight...
Thanks to the wonders of pay-phone technology, Jim is able to triangulate my position and guide me home. Where ever you go, there you are.
A smoke, a beer, a poop, a shower... I hafta run to Harajuku to meet Gen. This night would be spent at his place as Jim and Yuka's had been previously reserved by Ado from some friends of his. Anyways, on my way to Shinjuku, I get off at the wrong bloody station. Go ahead laugh at me. I'm looking to go to Shinjuku, but Oedo doesn't stop at Shinjuku proper, it stops ate Shinjuku-nishigushi. But before it does that, it stops at Higashi-shinjuku. Bewildered, 3 hours late, I hop a cab: "Harajuku eki!" Cab driver then chides me for not having showed him my map earlier as he would have avoided the traffic. Yes yes, I wanted the corner of Omotesando and Meiji, not Harajuku station, ok ok. Arriagto!
I walk into the fourth floor "Soho Restaurant" just as Gen's dinner party is splitting up the bill. Damn. "Hi! Hello! My name is Boris. Pleased to meet you. Yes I just arrived! From Montreal! Yes yes, it was fine. Ah, allo Olivier, ça va? Magnifique." We are SO jet set. You cannot imagine. :D
By the way, for those who care, at this point I am wearing my B/W Adidas Sambas, dark blue Diesel jeans, dark blue t-shirt and jogger vest from American Apparel, my father's dark blue with grey and burgundy pinstripes italian wool 2 button tailored suit jacket, and a loooong powder blue scarf, folded and looped around my neck, "in the Tokyo way". Tssssssss. ;)
Walking to Gen's apartment building from Meguro station, chatting about tags and semantic data management, I am happy to recognize the area as I had been there a year and half earlier, the night before the 1IMC, an event that lies at the very beginning of this new life of mine.
It is 23:59, Thursday 13th, 2005, Tokyo local time (10:00 EST). It has been 48 hours since I have seen a bed. Amazingly it took another 20 minutes of chatting and email checking for it all to run up and drop me, in an instant, into deep sleep.
Six hours later, jet lag opens my eyes. Damn you, jet lag.
Over the course of midday, I made my way back to Jim and Yuka's, stopping in Shibuya to check out keitai (cellphones), Shinjuku for lunch at my favorite little yakitori counter/hole in the wall. A laaarge bottle of Sapporo, a small bowl of chicken bits stew, some marinated lotus root, and a sampler plate of yakitori. I think I may have cried for joy. ;) (No pictures as I had stupidly let my camera battery run out. I promise to go back, just for you all...). Mama-san, as the other clients called her, as I was paying giggled and asked how old i was. "Thirty", says I. "Ohhh, I am thirty three!" she says smiling wildly. For about 1/2 a second I try to imagine what kind of life I could possibly have with a yakitori counter worker. "Arrigato gozaimashta!" I say as I walk out. "Please come again" she calls after me...
I have spent the rest of the day settling into and relaxing at Jim and Yuka's fabulous new place. Did I mention it is fabulous? Yes, it is fabulous. No fridge or reliable WiFi yet, but hey. I am here. And I am happy. :)
(This has been a story titled "And thou shall know our verbosity")
Damn it feels nice to be here. So good. :)
Update (next morning):
Following a shipping SNAFU, I am sans keitai. Thanks for trying John! But you're right it's probably easier to just get a new one. Already have my eye on the model... ;)
Moblogging shall resume momentarily, en force.
Emma made sure I'd be as uncomfortable for the next few days as she may well be... ;)
Overnight, I moved this site to a new, way faster server. This will allow me to start building on it again. In the move I decided to ditch my photo galleries because, well, I didn't like them and they took up over 500 megs of space. Sorry, The Web, for the URL rot. I will rebuild a newer one soon. Also it seems I bungled my SQL export and many many UTF-8 encoded characters got messed up. I'll fix the easy ones shortly, but I fear the two or three instances of japanese characters are lost... sigh. Well, we see.
I switched to Adium for all IM. I was using Proteus and iChat, but it seems iChat was the source of some strange behavior, not to mention a resource hog. It'll take some getting used to...
My flight to Tokyo was paid for this morning. Here I come. A month in Tokyo and 3 weeks in Vancouver. Excited is an understatement. Anxiety has moved into the pit of my stomach as well, as I don't have a clue how I am going to pay for all this. Hehehehe.
Chatting with Soli - yes, THAT Soli - with whom I will be staying for part of my Vancouver leg, he sent me this photo of the view from his window:
Yes, well... aren't I the lucky one? ;)
On a side note, instead of working on client projects the last few days, I've started developing a PHP-based tool to make comment management in Movable Type easier. So far I have used it here, on Joi's and on Smartmobs and, though rough around the edges at this stage, it is a godsend. I will release a package once I've cleaned it up.
All the best to you all in the new year!
BORIS ANTHONY MR 1 AC 111V 12JAN Montreal/Vancouver 0800 1031 2 AC 3V 12JAN 3 Vancouver/Narita 1340 1655 3 AC 4V 09FEB Narita/Vancouver 1900 1100 4 AC 194V 23FEB Vancouver/Montreal 1100 1844
Gilberto Gil, performing "La Lune de Gorée" ("The Moon of Goree") at the Creative Commons Benefit Concert in NYC on Tuesday night.
This event was just announced yesterday. Just checked with my travel agent... a last minute flight to Helsinki, departing tomorrow evening, would cost me an arm.
Damn. I must consider this carefully.
There are narratives in my life that have quietly threaded along in the background, closely following me. Slowly parts of these stories have meshed into my "real life", and this morning another part intersected for the second time with my blog-life.
In the summer of 1999, I came across a french musician by the name of Philippe Katerine. He had become quite popular here in Montreal that summer with a song entitled "Je vous emmerde" ("I am annoying you"), which is about a drunk poet annoying a girl in a bar by trying to pick her up.
On the same album, "Les Créatures" ("The Creatures"), is a track entitled "Jamais je ne t'ai dit que je t'aimerais toujours, oh mon amour" ("I never told you I'd always love you, oh my love"). The song is a duet with a whispy, childish female voice. That is how I came across Kahimi Karie.
Kahimi Karie is a japanese songstress who sings in japanese, french, english and italian. She and Katerine had collaborated on a few projects. She sang with him, he produced an album, or some songs, for her, with her, etc...
So I started grabbing Kahimi Karie tracks. Turns out she'd collaborated with two other gentlemen (and more, but these two are significant to my story): Cornelius, her boyfriend at the time, and Momus. Both were unknown to me at the time but I grew to enjoy their work as well.
Here the story forks, frays actually. The Cornelius thread crossed over to my blog-life a few months ago, the Katerine thread during my recent jaunt to Tokyo, and the Momus thread this morning.
And the tie that binds all this together, believe it or not, is my friend Joi Ito...
Bear with me.
The Cornelius Thread
Cornelius's work quickly became some of my favorite music. Awesome stuff. Turns out, he is Joi's second cousin. What were the odds of that?
One night during my recent trip to Tokyo, Joi took me to a bar run by his old friend Ko and his wife NaNa: the Tera bar in Sangenjaya. Joi had also invited Cornelius to come by and hang out. Awesome. Joi showed him a little video project I am working on which uses a track Cornelius apparently had released using a Creative Commons license. He thought it was "sugoi" (cool). Double awesome.
Later that night, I noticed on the wall behind me a poster for a Jean-Luc Goddard film from 1965 called "Pierrot le fou", starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anna Karina...
The Katerine Thread
The next day, waking up on the futon I was sleeping on at Jim and Yuka's, I turn my head to see a stack of DVDs under the desk beside me.
In this stack of DVDs is a copy of "Pierrot le fou". Zoinks! A few nights later, with nothing else to do, I decide to watch it.
Twenty minutes into it, my jaw drops. Anna Karina and Jean-Paul Belmondo start to sing "Jamais je ne t'ai dit que je t'aimerais toujours, oh mon amour"... A bit of Googling and it turns out 1- Katerine is an Anna Karina fan and they even collaborated on an album: "Histoire D'Amour" ("Love Story"), 2000 and 2- the song had been written by one Rezvani for the Goddard movie.
The Momus Thread
The Momus Thread is ... weird... Perhaps because Momus is weird. Perhaps because his is the thread that has come closest to my real life a few times, without crossing over, and for the first time today crossed into my blog life. What makes this doubly strange is that Momus has kept an online journal for years, publishing insightful articles on a regular basis, posting picture collages of his travels, etc... He is a blogger sans a blog. And has been for a loooong time. Also, Momus was galavanting across Japan at the same time I was last year... we were in Kyoto, Hiroshima and Tokyo only days apart... It even went so far as him playing a show in the same venue, Super Deluxe, where I had attended the 1IMC (1st International Moblog Conference), where I had finally met and befriended Joi!
In the 70's, Momus briefly studied at McGill Univeristy (in Montreal). During Kahimi Karie's last North American tour, Momus appeared with her in Montreal where he recorded two tracks with local pop heros, Bran Van 3000. I know at least one Bran Van alumni personally, and have often often often crossed paths with three of the main Bran Van 3000 "celebrities": James DiSalvio (who in an interview in a local weekly once listed my favorite bar as his favorite bar... oooooo), Sahra (who for a while was a regular there too), Jean Leloup (a Quebecois rock god whom I admired much as a teenager and whom I've had numerous encounters with over the years). Oh and all three could be spotted on any given day at one of two popular Café's in Montreal's Mile End district... an area I too frequent quite often.
But I digress...
So, this morning... This morning, in my RSS aggregator, I read an entry by Seb Paquet on Corante's Many-to-many weblog, where he links to an article Momus published in 1991 with the sub-heading "In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 people". Seb's entry is about, roughly, some social implications of weblogging, while Momus' article seems to be about the future of the recording industry (haven't read it yet... heh...).
While I missed my chance to meet Seb face-to-face last week (my apologies to both Seb AND Mike...), we have chatted briefly, on #joiito, and he is a very respected voice in the blogosphere. He is also a friend of a dear friend of mine, Karl Dubost, who, it must be said is one of the originators of my blog-life...
This story could have been told from the perspective of my blog-life, as well as my real life. There are many many people, close and dear to me, who are also implicated in all this. I became friends with Karl during our trip to SxSW 2003, which I attended only because friend Warren's company, Plank Multimedia, had been nominated for their work on Michael Moore's websites, and they had an extra pass. Plank Multimedia is where I worked, along side one of my very best friends, Stevey, when this particular story started... I met Jim in Joi's IRC channel last year when he ever go graciously offered to let me stay at his place during my first trip to Japan. We became fast friends, and Jim now works for Six Apart Japan, a company Joi is an investor in.
The threads intertwine, and sometimes they connect...
That night at Tera Bar, Joi and John, another great new friend I've met because of all this blog stuff, chided me for having no "ochi": my stories have no clear ending, no punch line, no point.
Perhaps I am a bad story teller. I'd rather believe that stories have no end, and that what I do is point out observations of mine, narrative outakes from my lives... but that's another story.
Near the end of my Tokyo trip, I had the privilege and good fortune to hook up with Patrick of Tokyo Recohan. Patrick is a fellow Québecois, living in Tokyo who in his spare time runs this used CD website. I had ordered some stuff from him about a year ago and when he saw my address he emailed me right away: "hey! I'm from Québec too!" Hehehe.
Being all in Japanese, the subtleties were of course lost on me, but the energy was great and the music, for the most part, loads of fun.
Ey, Patrick... you have any CD's of theirs? Let me know when the "new one" comes out. :)
Oh god yes. I am home. Can you tell I am deliriously happy? :D
Anyone got a sharp knife?
Hehehehe. Damn that hurt.
I have upped the pics of the first half of my Tokyo trip to my gallery.
Sadly, pics from here on in will be rare, if not non-existent as my camera decided to die. This pains me greatly.
Everyone's asking for a blog entry about Tokyo. The title sums it up nicely.
A lunch of yakitori in an alleyway counter in Shinjuku the size of my washroom cost about $35.
I've been here a week now. Three to go.
Being a visitor somewhere means you spend ALOT of time moving around. My feet are in permanent aching mode.
A week in and jet lag still comes and kicks me in the head every late afternoon.
The "OMG, I'm in freakin' Tokyo!" impulse to spend every moment exploring has faded. Phew! Now I can relax and enjoy it. Exactly why I've dumped myself here for a month.
I need new clothes. New me, new clothes. Makes sense no? :)
Shoes: check. Killer pair of black leather New Balance. Cost me less than my meals that day.
Pin striped tailored jacket and a stack of nice shirts. And one more pair of boot cut jeans. Yeah.
SO505is DoCoMo camera phone. Sweet, yet disappointing.
I am going to take a recommendation and start randomly popping into the millions of little bars packed into tiny multistory buildings all over town. I hate cafés. Not my scene. I'm a barfly, might as well admit it. Coffee just makes me jumpy. A drink, a smoke and a smile make me happy.
Pin striped tailored jacket and a stack of nice shirts. And one more pair of boot cut jeans. Yeah.
I managed to smuggle my camera on-board a helicopter tour of the Tokyo night sky. This despite being pointed to a locker (where I put my wallet instead) and setting off a metal detector ("oh I forgot my lighter in my pocket!").
The view was, of course, spectacular. We took off from about a half-hour-by-train east of Tokyo and within minutes were circling around Tokyo Tower, swooping into Shibuya and quietly contemplating Shinjuku.
And then, it was over. 14,700 yen I'd spend again.
May I direct your attention over here...
(My mobile photolog. Not fully active yet but I should have a SO505is within the next 24hrs, from which I will be posting like gangbusters.)
Others took pictures of me:
(Hrmm... more as i find them... maybe...)
MJ went through a stick of lipstick and marked her social network at Bruce Sterling's SxSW 2004 party.
Big warm skwoochy kisses, by the way. ;)
These were taken with my tiny Pentax Optio S which only does 30 seconds of video at a time, with about a 5 second gap while it writes the data to the memory card. Also, the sound and video quality leaves much to be desired, but, voila.
I was pretty drunk at this point so I just put the camera down on the edge of the table and kept pushing the "record" button. That explains the bad angle and the sometimes cropped heads. My apologies. :)
Seems I just got back, but already I am scampering to finalize travel arrangements which have me taking off within a week.
Mid-march will be spent in Austin, Texas for SxSW and a few days in Tampa, Florida, visiting the maternal unit. When I get back I'll have barely two weeks to get ready for what may very well turn into a two month stay in Japan. I may trim that down to just one month so I can come home and enjoy at least some of spring here in Montreal. Also that would give me a chance to properly plan my jaunt to Helsinki, which I would very much like to pepper with a stop-over in Reykjavik, Iceland, a quick jump to St. Petersburg and maybe a stop in London/Brighton/Oxford before coming back home.
Amazing to think that just over a year ago I was sitting in a cubicle making lists of places I'd like to go... and here I am making lists, anxiously mind you, of places I am going.
Where there is a will, there is a way.
Sitting down for lunch on the last day of the ETech conference in San Diego, I pull out my mobile to find it is turned off. It's been off for at least two days. Damn. I have a hunch that Soli's been trying to reach me, as he said he'd meet me down here. The plans were vague and not confirmed. Turning it on, I find four messages from him, starting the previous afternoon and getting progressively nastier. The last one was left 30 minutes ago.
Soli had landed in San Diego the previous evening and had already picked up the VW van he had agreed to drive back up to Vancouver. He also had already managed to lose his wallet and have a new Visa card sent to him. I excuse myself to John, my lunch companion and new friend, and call Soli. He's ecstatic. He'll meet me at the hotel shortly.
After saying my goodbyes in the Hotel lobby, Soli and I take off on our journey. If we only knew...
A quick stop at a pier north of San Diego to catch the sunset, and off we head for Los Angeles. Chris and Raluca, old friends from Montreal, just moved to L.A. and were graciously hosting us for a night. The original directions were to take the 5 North to the 405, then get off at Sunset Boulevard.
Somewhere near county limits we hit a small amount of traffic. Slowly we inch forward until we come to a checkpoint of sorts. One row of cars ahead of us the entire backup is stopped. It is a checkpoint for illegal aliens. At this moment, 2 miles of backed up traffic is entirely held back by two or three Highway Patrolmen. An enormous amount of steel and potential thrust, held at bay by two raised hands. They are packing up for their evening's task. Within moments the way is opened and the column races ahead.
A short time later, we stop for fuel. Pulling into the gas station, I roll up my window and the handle stays in my hand. A sign of things to come? Checking the oil, Soli curses VW engineers for making the dipstick on this model so terribly hard to remove and replace. Attempting to pay with his new Visa, he is told the card is not yet activated. Hilarity ensues with the non-english speaking attendant. I pull out the cash. Done. Already slightly irritated by the dipstick and the attendant, Soli begins to wrestle with the gas cap which despite our best efforts neither of can put back on. We pull out with a wad of paper as a gas cap.
Raluca calls to tell us she and Chris are going to see a friend's band at the Viper room and we should meet them there, we'll be on the guestlist. Bonus! She gives me revised directions: forget the 405. Just stay on the 5 until Sunset, hang a left.
Soli, who is driving, says he thinks something may be wrong... the van doesn't seem to have as much power as it had. The gas cap maybe? A pressure issue of some sort? Hrm. We pull over on the narrow shoulder. I yank out the paper wad as Soli once again fiddles with the gas cap. No dice. Fack it, the Viper room awaits! We drive on.
There's L.A.! We're close now! ... There goes L.A.! We're past it! What the heck? Call to Raluca. They are at the club already, we are past Valencia. Too far, double back, catch the 405 from the north and call back. So we do that.
A little bit after merging to the 405 we hear a "bang!" Hrm... Soli says he thinks he hit something lying on the road. No big deal. Ok. I dial Raluca, to tell her we'll be there in ten minutes. As she reiterates final directions from the 405 to the Viper room, Soli lets out a yelp and pulls over violently, the van shaking and shuddering, almost flipping over itself as we hit the 3 inch deep drainage canal that passes as a shoulder on the 405. "What the hell are you doing!? And what's that smell... Oh... no..."
"Raluca... we just pulled over... one of our tires is shredded... Yeah. I'll call you back."
Formula One style, we whip out and locate everything we need. Wrench under my seat, jack under Soli's, spare under the front of the vehicle. Go go go. Seven minutes and we're back on the road. Viper room here we come!
"Hi Raluca. Yeah tire's fixed we're coming! Oh... Show's over? You'll be at the Red Rock Bar which is next door... ok... yeah... we'll be there in ten... See ya. Click" Daaaamn. Aw well. At least we made it. In one piece.
When we get to the bar, Raluca informs us that had we followed the original directions, we'd have been changing our tire in South Central L.A. I shudder and try not think of it.
A few drinks, some unwinding and a night in our host's living room. Perfect.
After breakfast bagel sandwiches, Chris leads us to an area where we find a tire shop. Soli orders four new tires. We leave the van there and head to Venice Beach were we rent two bicycles and putz around for two hours.
Sorted, Soli drops me off at Mimi's for the afternoon and picks me up again around 8pm. Seems sometime in the afternoon one of the fan belts started squeaking. No big deal. We meet Chris and Raluca for dinner, after which they invite us to stay a second night in their apartment, since by now it is late and we haven't made hotel arrangements and they are super cool. Excellent. We drop off the van in their garage and head of to the Chateau Montmartre (?) where two other Blizzarts regulars, Natasha and Jessica, are hanging out. Afterwards, we wander around Mulhulland Drive. Westmount, eat your heart out.
Returning the apartment garage, we notice the van is leaking coolant. Damn. We'll sort it out in the morning when we head off for our journey up the coast.
Sure enough, the coolant hose at the front of the van has popped off. The theory is that when the tire guys put the spare back on, they nicked it off. No big deal, Soli fastens it back on. We refill the coolant and hit the 5 North. Ciao L.A.!
Half an hour out, an annoying alarm buzz starts sounding. This should have set off major alarms in our heads but for some reason it didn't (see disclaimer at end). We pull into a gas station and sure enough, that coolant hose popped off again. What the hell. The engine's in the back.. why is this hose even up here? Whatever, Soli fastens it up again, we refill and take off again.
Now, our plan was to hug the coast all the way up, but now, on the 5 North, we find ourselves a hundred miles from the coast. Dammit. I chart us the next road heading due West. An absolutely stunning detour drive along the 166 later we pull into Pismo Beach. That annoying buzz alarm hounded us the whole way but Soli figured out that by revving the engine he could make it go away for extended periods. As we hit town, down shifting into lower gears, the fan belt isn't squeaking anymore, it is outright screaming. Only at lower gears though. We push on. The 1 is ahead and our jouney awaits. On to Monterey!
Still no alarms in our heads. In hindsight, i have to wonder just what the hell WAS in our heads...
Unbeknownst to us, the 1 between San Simeon and Monterey is one of the most insane bits of road in the world. Hairpin turns, steep inclines, solid stone walls to the east, sheer cliff drops to the Pacific to west, with a narrow two lanes to negotiate.
It is dark and foggy and Soli does a valiant job keeping us alive. No shit falling rocks! Had we hit that boulder, there would be no more blog entries...
So, a screaming fan belt and a mysterious buzzing alarm, both coming and going seemingly at will, mysteriously.
At Big Sur, the dashboard lights up. All alert lights have come to life. SUV tailing us, nay, tailgating us. Sweet Jeebus. Soli swerves out into a driveway. The rear of the van is smoking. Not good.
Fan belt is gone. A fat trail of coolant greases the concrete behind us. Big Sur is within a mile... we have to try to get there. There must be a garage of at least a gas station. We make maybe a mile. We come to a stop in the driveway of some Resort/Inn.
Two employees from the resort drive by on their way out for the night. They give us the number to call the Inn. Ten minutes later a young guy shows up. Valet parking attendant. Talking to him he offers me a smoke and the understanding that we are in one of the most expensive and exclusive areas in all of California. The cheapest room at this particular place starts at $550, and even if we could afford it we'd be out of luck since the whole town is booked up due to Valentine's Day. This would be a recurring theme.
Five minutes later two Lexus SUV screech down the driveway. The manager and four other guys pop out. We can't leave the van where it is. It is blocking the sign. They push us ten feet to the side of road, to a non-existing shoulder. Soli has already called triple A. Tow truck is on it's way.
The stars are marvelously clear out here, aren't they Soli? Wow.
Flatbed tow truck arrives with a dolt of an operator. We stop twice to refasten the chains. I actually nod of as Soli, with white knucles, fears for both our lives as this arguably stoned hick barrelasses the rest of the way to Monterey.
Ah Monterey! I have visions of Steinbeck... Cannery Row, Tortilla Flat... The best laid pans Of Mice And Men, indeed!
Instead we find a garage who's lights, at 11:30 at night, are on like a beacon for idiots like ourselves...
"Tony" is quick to help us. Or try to anyways. Looks to be in his mid-forties, balding, hair sorter than mine except for in the back where he wears a salt and pepper ponytail, and some sort of a finely groomed goatee-slash-beard type of thing. Tattoos pick up on his forearms where the grease of being a mechanic trails off. He could have walked right out of Mad Max...
We figure all we need is a new fan belt and a clamp for the coolant hose. No problem. Let's see, ok how does this fan belt hook up to what. Ok this goes with that... but that... hrmph... is seized.. what is that? Must be the water pump. The water pump gear is seized... that's why the belt overheated and snapped. That's why the coolant overheated, expanded and cause the hose to burst off.
Can't get a water pump till morning fellas. Sorry. Let's go find you a motel.
Tony drives us up and down the strip, as well as over to the 400+ room Holiday Inn over in the nicer part of town. Would you believe that every hotel and motel in this dump is booked solid? We tried at least twenty. Valentine's Day. Ohhhh how we hate Valentine's Day now.
Tony's being really nice. A real mensch. Born again Christian style. Soli's being real chummy with him so Tony starts "opening up". Little tidbits, he is reluctant to share too much. Something of a past it seems. Just got off probation, he avoids the cops, driving across town to a second 7-11 when the first one had a patrol car parked in front of it. Nice. Soli asks if he's from here, if he likes it here. Born and raised, though the place has gone to the dogs last few years... Damn african americans (he used the less nice term...) and mexicans. "They come in here, 10 to a house, set up shop... I don't mind so much really except when I go to McDonald's and they don't understand my order." Soli and I probably thought the same thing at that moment: "Oh... crap..." Ask and ye shall receive, Soli. Stories of bitches who used him, buddies who totaled his cars... Ugh.
So, back to the van. Tony runs home and brings us blankets for the night. We lock ourselves in. I sleep. Soli, apparently, not so much.
As mentioned, Soli lost his wallet at San Diego Airport. All he has is his passport, a Gold Visa card and his cellphone (aside from his clothes, an IBM notebook, an iPod, a digital camera, a case of beer and a bottle of vodka). I am traveling with a wad of Benjamin Franklins and all my gear.
We are camped out behind a garage in what it turns out is the slums of Monterey. It is a wonder nothing happened...
After feasting on Jack-In-The-Box breakfast McMuffins, Soli decides to go do laundry at the laundromat around the corner, while I wait for Tony to show up. I start reading Cory's new book.
Soli comes back half an hour later quite agitated. Seems there was some weirdness at the laundromat which culminated with Soli's cellphone falling into a full washing machine. No more cellphone for you, Soli. On the walk back he got yelled at by some scary looking dude in spanish.
Tony shows up with some bad news. No water pump until tomorrow. "Take us to the airport Tony", I say, "we're gonna rent a car. We'll leave the van here for a few days."
The rest of the journey to San Francisco goes smoothly, as we relax into the boat-like luxury of the Ford Taurus. The coast north of Santa Cruz is beautiful. Driving into San Francisco we hook up with Joi, Peter and Jonas at the Café de la Presse before checking into a Holiday Inn on North Van Ness.
Soli and I spent 2 nights (a day and a half) in San Francisco before I, honestly, rudely told him to take a hike. I had things to do and he really should get back to the van. Soli, my apologies, but it had to be done. ;)
In subsequent phone calls and comments left in previous entries here, Soli recounts how the rental car got a flat in Monterey before he could return it. How, never mind the water pump, the master cylinder was blown and he now had to rent a U-Haul to tow the van back down to San Diego (he was supposed to go back there anyways since the engine in the van was actually a new one and the mechanic had told him to drive 700 miles and bring it back for a final tweak...) How once there, he jumped on a bus to hit the beach one more time only for the bus to be hit by a car and having to wait 2 hours for the cops to make sure no one would sue. How he finally jumped on a plane to visit his sister in Arizona, which was also part of his original itinerary.
Soli, it was a blast, and I hope, no I pray, your bad luck has run out for a looong time.
Soli and I are NOT normally this stupid. We know cars well enough, and know better than to ignore alarms and loud noises. What happened to us was, bad luck aside, very much the fault of two overly excited boys, exulted by the scenery and the California dream. I also suspect Soli was somehow under the impression that I was in a mad rush to get to San Francisco, which I wasn't really. But he knows me well enough, and I him, that this misunderstanding is totally plausible, since by precedent he was not entirely wrong in thinking I may be.
Sometimes, when you are deep in shit, you don't smell it.
First upload to my gallery of California trip pictures. Will do more when i get back home.
Stage two of the road trip (Los Angeles to San Francisco) involved almost plunging into the Pacific off of Highway 1 numerous times, busted fan belt and empty coolant stall in Big Sur, tow truck ride to Monterey, night spent in the van behind a garage, rental car to San Francisco.
San Diego to Los Angeles Adventure. Too tired to explain but here are some keywords to tide us over:
Soli, VW van, flat tire, blocked credit cards, Sunset Strip, Gouge and Reluca's appartment.
We laughed, we cried.
Free Wi-Fi in the Dorval Airport.. I mean "Pierre Elliott Trudeau" Airport...
I'm sitting here trying to plan which panels and sessions I'm thinking of attending at ETech next week and it is a huge pain in the ass.
Not the "choosing what to attend" part. The planning part.
Sure there's a nice "At-a-Glance" calendar up, but that's only useful for reference. I want to have a copy in my calendar so I can mark which ones I'm interested in, those I am not, etc.
I just emailed Rael asking him if perchance there is a vCal format available of the schedule. Beyond that, I think a "My Conference Planner" web-app would be rocking for this. Should be simple enough. ;)
Sign-up for an account and as you browse the list/schedule of sessions/panels/whathaveyou you can click "Add to my schedule". Voila. From there you can export as vCal, print a PDF or just bookmark your personalized schedule.
As it is, I'm going to have to recreate the schedule in my calendar app and copy and paste each event. Yuck.
Building a web-service module like this would be useful for film-festival sites and the like as well. Hint hint. ;)
Being at Harvard Law School on a Sunday is odd. I walked around a little tiny bit of this campus which is in many ways one of the epicenters of western life. The laws and ways of much of our world are the products of people who've passed through here.
Only skaters will note the evidence of cultural subversion in the above image: that slab of granite has been soaped, waxed up for grinding.
The drive to Boston, where I am attending BloggerCon, was 4 1/2 hours of steady rain. Surprisingly not as exhausting as I'd feared. I arrived to find, to my great surprise, a hotel reservation for me at the Sheraton Commander. I am filled with gratitude. You know who you are.
From what I gather, The Commander Sheraton is so named due to the fact that right around here is where George Washington took command of... ? (Anyone can give me insight? a link? Correction?)
I can hearby report that I-86 definitly is one seriously heavily patroled stretch of highway. The cars are dark greyish-blue in color so they blend in VERY nicely with the surroning forest shadows, especially near dusk.
I managed to slip past 4 of 5 highway patrols on my drive back home from NYC. Number five here clocked me at 90mph - and that was after I spotted him...
Lest you think i am proud of this, let me reassure you: I take no pride in getting caught, nevermind paying the fine. ;)
Left Montreal at 8:30am. Arrived in New York City at 1:45pm. Ride like the wind.
Union Square, W Hotel; parked the car in a garage, took a shower. Had a glass of wine with Joi and Anil in the lobby, and now I'm off to meander on my own for a bit. First stop: Republic Noodle "place" (recommended by Joey last night).
So far, so blog.
- "So.. has blogging changed YOUR life?"
- "Why yes... yes it has..."
I'm a bit nostalgic for my little trip to Tokyo this past summer. Remebered that there were pics of me taken by other people and put up by them in their own weblog souvenirs.
Here are some (some with me, some of time/space coordinates I was present at):
Hmm. Jim took about a million pics while we were hanging out and I caught him more than once taking one of me... Jim? I'd love to see some... :)
Ok I am going to New York City this weekend. I could drive myself but I hate long distance (snooooze...) highway driving. I am considering taking the Greyhound bus, probably the late one the night before I am due to arrive (heh that puts me on the road to NYC on September 11th...).
Can anyone share pros and cons of taking Greyhound bus from Montreal to New York City?
So here we are. Hopefully things will pick up...
Molly giving her presentation.
Under the gun for internet connection here sooo..
- some pics added. not all linked are there yet sorry...
- Kyoto is beautiful!
- Geisha! Well, Maiko, to be precise, but WOW.
- Train to Kobe at 11 today. Stopping in for a beef lunch. $40 steak? You bet. They fed this thing beer and massaged it everyday...
- Tonight Hiroshima.
Damn 1- Never leave wandering without my compass. I walked for 30 minutes, hungry, thirsty and sweating, in the wrong direction.
Damn 2- Cold sake REALLY messes me up. Whoohooo!
Damn 3- Never leave wandering without my phrasebook. How do you say "water please?" in Japanese?
Damn 4- The women in Kyoto beat the women in Tokyo hands down. No ifs ands or buts about it.
Oh and Damn #5: an old white Saab 900 nearly killed me crossing the street just now. A sign? And if so, what does it mean?
Ok I am in Kyoto, which so far is of much more digestible scale. It`s almost 5pm and I`m going to wander about.
My hotel is across the street from the Old Imperial Palace.
Photos upcoming. This computer I am sitting at in the hotel lobby has some cat5 I`m gonna hijack later... ;)
Didn't take many for some reason. Was busy getting my bearings...
Through a friend of a friend, i was invited to a party waaay out by Gakugeidaigaku station. Notice the complexity of the name; it is relevant. Be there at 9.
I get there at 9:30. Friend meets me at the door (after I walked for 10 minutes with the couple I had asked for directions who happened to be going to the same party.)
It turns out to be what back home we'd call a warehouseparty, or loftparty. An old hotel in mid reconfiguration, becoming a department store. Some local promoters got their hands on the space for the night.
Wired article about the DECONism events i also attended last weekend in Toronto.
Sigh, good times.