May 2006 Archives

Thoughts on this morning's train ride

There are 6 billion kinds of people in this world...

Fast food slows you down.

It is incorrect to say "A was drowned by you and you were drowned by B". More correct would be: "A allowed herself to be drowned by you and you allowed A to be drowned by you, and you allowed yourself to be drowned by B and B allowed you to be drowned by her." The key difference here is that responsibility lies with all parties. Miscommunication, lies by omission, letting things go... dreaming, hoping... desiring... These are things we all do, naturally, normally, and must keep an eye on. Sometimes we make a mess. Clean it up and keep going. Love is love and not fade away.

"Para" in parasol/parapluie/parachute, parasite, paramilitary come from both Greek and Latin(?? some confusion here since all references cite "from old spanish" or "old french" which while latin based languages, also had influences from greek, especially after the Renaissance... Anders? Any ideas?) and slightly varying semantics. Neat.

Now that she's away, I will switch my daily schedule up, back to something more "normal" for me (not to say waking up everyday at 7am doesn't suit me mind you): considering I have barely a week and a half left here in Tokyo (yes yes I am going "home", June 12th... ostensibly...), and I am still inundated with work, I will try to work it out so as to ... oh wait no that won't work... There are enough people who I want to see before I go to be busy every evening from now till I go.. ack... drat. Ok I see what I do...

work work work.

My sister is in the hospital. I don't know how many weeks pregnant she is but it is way too soon. Apparently her uterus is too thin and her cervix is already open? She must lie in bed and cannot move, at all, to do *anything*. She is hoping to hold on at least 4 more weeks. I think this is insane but of course I hope it all works out for the best. Gambatte kudasai, Sofi-san to Maksu-sama!!

Exotic flavor

From: Dich Thuat
Date: May 31, 2006 12:13:49 PM JST
To: boris@

you're getting email from vietnam... sweet...

spam from the 'Nam

oh, hehe
From Ho Chi Minh... to the Trash Bin.

Yahoo! porn spam

Warning: links to pages not with photos but hardcore porn terminology...

Just got a concerned email from Howard regarding the fact that one of the articles on SmartMobs seems to be a spam magnet according to Yahoo!. The fact was discovered by one our authors doing an ego search and discovering that about 15 pages into the search results, the links turn into hardcore porn spam.

Many of the links seem to be dead (everything going to .ru domains) but many point to sub-domains of Clicking though and viewing source reveals an ingenious mechanism, one that gives further pause about the whole "Web 2.0", "You work for them", "it's not about you", "esclavage 2.0" debacle:

Hidden in the source of these porn spam sites is loads of republished content, ostensibly culled from highly search-ranking weblogs etc, in outright contravention of, if not just Copyright and Creative Commons Non-Commercial/By-Attribution, but, well let's face it, decency, respect, integrity, what-have-you.

This is the dirty water that drives the water-mill that makes the paper pulp that gets nudie mags printed on it! Hah!

Short of firing off an email to the person registered to the domain, there is pretty much nothing I can do at this point, other than disallow search spiders and the like. This is not an acceptable solution in this case since SmartMobs does generate revenue for Howard and his authors and being findable via Yahoo! et all is important.

In the global digital village, everybody is your neighbor, even the smut seller. ;)

Announcing RaSP!


Hah, that sounds so official like.

Back when I was a... oh wait I still am a freelancing web specialist... anyways, I built this "rapid site prototyper" in PHP. It's based on an array which one sets up to mimic one's site directory architecture (it basically provides metadata for stuff like directory label, visibility, has children, etc, and is quicker than to read an entire site's directory structure from disk on every page load). It worked well enough that once a site was done prototyping, there was no reason to not run the site off the same system. Content management was as simple as FTP'ing into the server and editing the file you wanted to edit. hehehe

It's built with all kinds of preconceived notions and ideals and hopes and dreams and dammit it's gone through 4 or 5 from-scratch rewrites, and at one time was all I could think about for weeks at a time. One particularly dreamy sunday afternoon I remember being deep in thought about how having this backbone informs the rest of the site of each of it's nodes existence and place and such and thought "eureka! that's it! the solution to all of man's problems is awareness!"


Anyways. The codebase has laid pretty much dormant for years now. I've recently used it as the corkboard on which sites such as the IMD, Mimi Ito's and Kula/ecto/endo are pinned up on, integrating them with Movable Type generated/maintained content output.

There are actually a dozen other one-off brochure-ware sites out there running on this code. Good stuff, I could build a site in 10 minutes, go over the prototype with the client one or two times, then skin it and deliver. This was before the days of the fancy FOSS CMS systems eh... Also I gave the code to one good friend of mine and it allowed him to feed, clothe and house himself VERY well for almost 2 years... ;)

Anyways, I'm pulling it out again today. My code-fu is of course much better now and I have some new needs for it so I need to recode it somewhat. So I thought I'd give it a new name: RaSP. Not terribly original but its namesake, the wood rasp, seems an appropriate metaphor for how one works with it to gradually file down to a site architecture that fits the client's needs...

Anyways, nothing to see here, move along.

Maybe I'll share it... maybe I won't, we'll see. ;)

About the fitness ball-as-desk chair

I'm about 6 foot tall. For a comfortable seating experience I recommend the 55cm ball, inflated to be quite firm; or the 65cm ball, left kinda squooshy.

They key being to have your knees bent at around 90 degrees when sitting upright.

That is all. For now.

Oh and I am back in Tokyo as of 16hrs ago. Very interesting neighbor, and new friend, on the flight. Happy as hell to be back here. It felt very much as a homecoming. Oddly.

The kind of info

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.
" hreflang="en">Fedex-Sfo-Dropoff

One of those days

Woke up feeling like cordwood; stiff, dead, stacked up and left to dry.
Bad night's sleep. The number of motorcycles and heavy trucks that pass down this supposedly quiet street at 3am is... remarkable.
The number of times a night "Bumbles" decides to meowl and tap-dance around the apartment is also... remarkable.

So up at 8am again. This I enjoy actually.

Three emails and one IM conversation later and I am not in a very sunny mood though.

Unlike the weather outside, which has been in a sunny mood since I got here. Which adds to my bad mood as I have cooped myself up in here trying to move ahead on work only to have stick after stick stuck in my spokes.

Today, I have scheduled no visits, no meetings, no outings: just good quiet solid working time.

Except I am in a bad mood. And my main dev server just went down. Thank you TextDrive. God you suck. I cannot wait for my Dell Poweredge 850 to arrive. Sigh.

Maybe I should just go out and enjoy the su...

Of course and now... I have a sunburn. Just no winning today. ;p
Whining, yes; winning, no.


Dammit. Montreal's green again.
As am I with envy...

Inspiring, and well written, obituary

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)

Different perspective

(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...
hahahaha... hrm...

Yes, obviously I am slightly crazy. Who else would hop the Pacific *just* to housesit cats. ;p

Say what?

According to the Rosetta Project, which is "Building an archive of all documented human languages" (though judging from the casing of their banner blurb, proper english escapes them), no one in Canada speaks english or french. Funny... I though those were our official languages. The OLF is gonna be pissed. (Oh sorry, the OQLF now. I guess some french people complained.)

Also, no idea what "German, Pennsylvania" is, but I know I grew up speaking bavarian-austrian.

Juuuust nit-picking. :D

It starts at the edges...

Excuse me but what the fuck is Canada doing deporting Costa Ricans seeking to live in Canada? Why are we rejecting refugee claims *at all*, and then throwing entire families into jail to await deportation?

I have zero tolerance for protectionism and conservatism. Zero.

When's the next election? Can we bootstrap that like we did the last one? I promise I'll be around for it this time...

Bo Pack

Bo Pack

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)

  • 17" TFT Samsung. Bought at Best Buy for $300. It fits into a box the size and weight of a VCR, complete with carry handle.
  • 65cm "fitness ball". $20. The box is smaller and lighter than the Powerbook.
  • Headphones. (not pictured, but I have a pair of Sony DJ's back home and Gen's pair back at the Lab.)

(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... ;)

Ahh San Francisco...

2:00am. Bar close. Big guy runs up behind me and then matches my walking speed.

"hey man..."
"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.

Medieval ballisticism

In a follow-up to my "It's not about you" post a few weeks back, Mike Migurski, lead dev on ReBlog, points me to this complaint on "The Taming of The Band-Aid", a small, local weblog about one person's agricultural efforts in rural Florida:

This is new technology. We're out on the cutting edge, folks. Given that fact, technology gets put into play before abuses of said technology can be forseen. And I do see what "Garden Voices" is doing as abuse, plain and simple. They are generating revenue by posting original material without permission - material which, by the way, is copyrighted under Blogger's terms and conditions.

It seems "Garden Voices" (hehe) is reblogging tf23's content, without permission, with attribution (which ReBlog goes out of it's way to make possible) and yes of course... is trying to generate revenue with banner ads.

Classic water-mill setup. Just add water...

Again, I only point this out to say that the key issue here is awareness. The more awareness one has, the more one can help oneself. tf23 has several avenues of recourse, the least effective being to call Jonah, and turn of RSS. Also, tf23 should ask him/herself why he/she is blogging and for whom. Is it for fame? Fortune? Ego? or sharing? Sharing with whom? Why? (Do you see the spiral forming?)

It is a very hairy issue, inelegantly handled in this case but I suspect we will hear this kind of thing more and more.

Mike's comment on the entry bears pointing out as well:

Being quoted is a touchy subject, and I do think that's an appropriate word to describe what Reblog does. There's also a very fine line between being angry at having your work reblogged, and being angry because no one's paying attention. The big lesson of Reblog (and digital media in general) for me has been that the creators of a work have even less control over its dissemination than in the past, that this is *an intentionally-designed feature* of the internet (in fact, it's THE feature of the internet), and that it's a lot more interesting to embrace the weirdness than to fight it.

We essentially agree, inasmuch as we say "It's here, deal with it. Inform yourself and [re]act accordingly".

I'm off


San Francisco for two weeks, friday to friday. Lots of friends to see. Lots of work to do.
Then back to Tokyo.

Momentum means movement. Serendipity means go.

(This is a collage of photos from exactly one year ago to the day that I will be arriving. Uncanny.)

What is a "podcast"?

UPDATED (to be more precise in the answers I seek)

In your mind, is it:

"A podcast is like radio" ("radio" the medium, not the hardware/technoogy)
"A podcast is like a radio show" (the usage of the medium)

The difference is VERY significant. Please think about it and let me know.
Answers to this question very clearly indicate biases based on usage and understanding of what is, fundamentally, a profoundly simple thing: a media file URI culled out of a "blog entry" and highlighted in some fashion ("enclosures") in a syndication feed...

Time floating again

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.

ducks, moving ahead, meguro-gawa

I am moving forward though. I am moving forward.