Getting ready

I’ve never driven across country before, and certainly never done it by myself. So I’ve spent a lot of time getting ready. I got the car checked out on Wednesday. Most of it is packed full to the gills, and I’m not sure my framed photos from my office (for instance) are going to make it intact across the country. But I start driving tomorrow either way.

Here’s the route, or as near as I can get it in all the different online map programs that I’ve messed with. Tomorrow’s goal is Livingston, Montana. I’m hoping to get as far as St. Paul on Day 2, but we’ll see.

My companions? My digital camera; Roadfood; more Triptiks and maps and AAA guides than I can possibly use; ten years worth of mix tapes; my iPod (newly loaded with the free audiobook version of the 9-11 Commission Executive Summary and a not-free audiobook version of the Benjamin Franklin biography, plus about 8.5 GB of other stuff); and a Griffin iMic voice recorder that I’ll probably start using somewhere in North Dakota, which is when I imagine I’ll start seeing vapor trails and really talking to myself in earnest.

Maybe some audioblogging will come out of this. Who knows? All I know is that from this perspective the open road isn’t seeming too simple.

Untold story: How I sold my house at my ten year reunion

Untold story #1 from the last two months: how we sold our house at my ten year reunion at the University of Virginia, 3000 miles away from home. While we were at the Court Square Tavern.

We had left Kirkland on a red-eye Thursday night, bound for Charlottesville knowing that our agent was going to be showing the house while we were gone and trying to forget about our house being on the market and just enjoy the reunion. After we met Don Webb and our other friends at dinner, relaxing and enjoying became a lot easier. I already wrote about our trip to Court Square Tavern that night. What I didn’t write was what happened after we got there.

After we had been there for about half an hour, Lisa’s phone rang. She excused herself to stand over by the door where she could hear better, and Don and I continued to catch up. Then Lisa came back to the table with an odd look on her face. “What’s up?” I asked.

“James [Raysbrook, our realtor] says someone wants to buy the house. But we have to sign the offer and fax it back by 9 pm Pacific time.”

I looked at the clock. It was currently 10:40 Eastern time. An hour and 20 minutes wasn’t going to be enough time to find a Kinkos, call James with the fax number, and fax the documents back and forth.

Then inspiration struck. Lisa asked the bartender whether James could send us a fax on the Court Square’s machine. Twenty minutes later we had the offer in our hands and were paying scant attention to our beers as we pored over the details with James on the cell. Twenty more minutes later and I beckoned to the bartender again.

“You’re probably wondering what we’re up to. Well, we’ve just signed the papers to sell our house in Seattle and need to borrow your machine one more time to fax them back, if that’s ok.”

The guy was very clearly amused as hell, and I could see him cataloging the story to retell tomorrow. But he never cracked a smile. He said, “Of course,” and led me back up the stairs to the business office, where we faxed the papers back.

Smooth as silk. I’ve decided: from now on, I sell all my houses at the Court Square Tavern.

Fire and faith and forgiveness

On Tuesday, Denbigh Presbyterian Church in Newport News, Virginia suffered its second arson attack of the summer. The responsible party torched an education wing, including burning decorations and banners made for Vacation Bible School.

And this was the second break-in and fire this summer at the church. On June 14, someone broke into the church office, set fire to the copying machine, and damaged items in the pastor’s study, including pictures of past ministers.

The Newport News police have arrested a 15-year-old male and charged him with the crime. (This article in the Daily Press, registration required, says he’s been charged with burglary, arson, destruction of property and petty larceny, and that he’s being questioned about the June incident.)

It’s hard for me to write about this dispassionately. I grew up in that church. I was baptized there and confirmed there. I sang in the choir. I went to Vacation Bible School there and Sunday School. Frankly, I find it really hard to forgive this one. I believe in forgiveness, but it’s hard to practice it when I’m so mad. I don’t understand what would drive someone to do this. Break in and look for food, sure. Break in just to break things?

I’ve never met the Reverend Deborah Dail, the current pastor of the church, but I am awed by her ability to forgive even this repeated attack.

As I find out more about what’s happened, including opportunities to help, I’ll post more.

Hitting the road

Unveiling time: I’m moving back to Boston. Starting Saturday, I’ll be doing a cross-country drive from the Seattle suburbs to the Boston suburbs (with a several day layover with my inlaws in New Jersey).

This has been in the works for a while, but for various reasons I didn’t think the time was appropriate to break the news. Now I’m packing up from my temporary digs; I got the car checked out; and I have my Triptik and my copy of Roadfood. I’m ready to go.

Returning to Boston is a little bit of a dream come true for Lisa and me, because it’s much closer to both our parents and my extended family, and because quite frankly we love the town. Plus we like Dunkin Donuts and heavy snow.

Finally, I have to point out the irony that I’m moving back to Boston just as Dave Winer has finished his stint at Harvard and is looking for a new gig elsewhere, since Dave moved to Boston just a few months after I left. I’m not stalking you, Dave, honest. I’m actually stalking David Weinberger. (Joke, folks. Laugh.)

Dinner at Bill’s

Jeff Maurone, rising fourth-year at Villanova, posts a nice, respectful summary of his intern reception at Bill Gates’ house. Very cool, Jeff.

It makes me wish Microsoft had been more visibly supportive of blogging culture when I interned there in the summer of 2001. I had the “intern BBQ at Bill’s” experience, and remember it fondly, but didn’t write anything at the time and so can’t remember any fun details. Except the “donut” of people wanting to talk to the world’s richest man. That definitely happened in 2001 as well.

Triangulating the conventions

Today I spent the evening reading the convention blog portals:, Politics @ Technorati, and Politics @ Feedster. Yep, there are three of them and they all launched this week.

To be fair, we’ve seen this before. Every participant in BloggerCon (including myself) was part of an aggregated RSS feed published by Feedster. And both TechEd and PDC, the Microsoft conferences for IT Pros and Developers, respectively, have had their own aggregated blog sites. The roots reach further back, to 24 Hours of Democracy, which in 1996 predated (most) blogs and any concept of XML content syndication, and to the late lamented which pioneered RSS feeds in portal sites (O’Reilly’s Meerkat and the various iterations of UserLand’s Frontier-based aggregator, from Radio to Manila, must also get the nod in this context). The roots reach forward, too, to the blog portal on, which I helped launch a few weeks ago and which aggregates blog content from people across the company, on a myriad of blogging platforms, and lets people slice and dice the content via keyword searches and content scoping.

But this week, with three sites launching independently that aggregated content about the same event, special-purpose aggregation sites could be said to reach critical mass. If triangulation in the blogosphere is the art of reading three or more sources who write about the same event from differing viewpoints to arrive at the truth, what do we call this? Hyper-triangulation?

Sometimes (with no disrespect to my colleagues at Microsoft, or our friends at Technorati and Feedster, and certainly no disrespect to the Bloggfatha) it seems that there is an evolution of programmer cred. First everyone had to write their own weblog software; next, everyone had to write their own aggregator client; now everyone has to write their own scalable aggregator portal.

But all snidery aside; the reason everyone writes an aggregator portal is the same reason that everyone wrote a weblog client: because it’s massively useful and in the best interests of everyone. Reading the convention blogs, one gets a feel of life on the FleetCenter floor that network TV may never again deliver. Because it’s too boring for live TV? Perhaps, but reading the blogs, one finds the pockets of excitement because everyone is talking about them: Barack Obama’s speech, Ted Kennedy’s damn-near-valedictory panegyric to the Massachusetts roots of the American Revolution, Ron Reagan’s apolitical call to revive stem cell research, and the pulpit pounding furor of the Reverend David Alston (former Vietnam boatmate of John Kerry). Plus photos and discussion of the Free Speech Zone.

And what does the Washington Post see fit to give column space to? The TV production values of the convention and Ben Affleck.


Things have been a bit busy here at work. All I can say is, watch for an update by the end of the week. Hopefully I’ll post before then.

Scary way to wake up

What’s a bad thing to see after your search company has announced its stock ticker symbol and you’re getting ready for your IPO?


I know it must be just a transient outage but it’s still scary as hell.

Update: Coverage on says that it’s “sporadic.” This Slashdot thread is fingering the latest MyDoom variant as the culprit. (And I just received a copy of the MyDoom.M virus in the mail (fortunately my webmail client didn’t execute the payload), so it looks like another round of joy is en route.)

What I did on the hottest day of the year

loback meat co. quality always

I spent what I can only hope will be Seattle’s hottest day this year touching base with some old tourist landmarks, beginning with the Pike Place Market. I came away with four good photos to reward my Saturday sweat.

The a cappella quartet in front of the original Starbucks in the first picture should be publicly acknowledged Seattle treasures. I first saw them in 2001 when Lisa and I went to our first Mariners’ game, and they can be found alongside Pike’s Place most summer weekends, even when it’s hotter than a red-assed bee outside. I especially like the Asian tourist with the Burberry hat and purse peering through the window behind the quartet. As I snapped this picture, the lead singer (leftmost) was calling out “Even at Starbucks Coffee Tea and Spices, I’m gonna let it shine.”

Loback Meat Company: Quality Always in the second picture. I always wanted to get a good clear photo of this. I didn’t want to use a flash, so I had to steady my hand to adjust for the slower shutter speed, and took three or four pictures propped against a nearby pillar. I like the backsplash of the red neon on the ceiling paint, and there’s something thematically appropriate about the steady sign contrasting with the blurred faces below.

Next is today’s silly phonecam picture, taken outside SAM (where I had just seen the Van Gogh to Mondrian exhibit). I wanted to contrast the big Borofsky sculpture with the shorts-clad tourists. (Also good in the museum this time: the two oversized Joseph Cornell hommages by Curtis Steiner and Galen Lowe; discussed at the bottom of this article on the untold story exhibition.)

Finally, the old barefoot guy in shorts. I liked this man’s face, and the baby being pulled up the hill next to him.

Democratic politics gets its angel round

New York Times (Magazine): Wiring the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy. Even the title of the piece must make conservatives apoplectic. It makes me a little queasy. But the article is a brilliant dissection of the effects of campaign finance reform on the flow of money and the policy creation process in the Democratic party—and outside it. It’s really interesting to think what some of the money that was poured into dot-bombs in the late ’90s could do now in the political process—and who the equivalents to Marc Andreeson and Jeff Bezos will turn out to be in the political arena.

Optimism in the face of the end of the world

Between Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison and The Day After (which my host is currently watching and I’m failing to avoid), I really need to find something cheerier. Maybe some Joy Division.

—About The Day After. Judging from the IMDB message boards, the kids who didn’t grow up with the Cold War think the movie is pretty hokey. I’d agree with that, watching it again with the benefit of 21 years of better special effects and the end of the Soviet Union. But I also remember that I watched it at the age of 10 or 11. And rode the bus to school with the kids from my neighborhood, who were normally a pretty reprehensible bunch of cut-ups (and some actual delinquents), but on that day everyone was absolutely quiet. Kids talked quietly to each other in their seats. My neighbor from across the street, who was known to beat me up from time to time, talked to me and quoted the Einstein saying that appeared in the movie: “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” Three years later I was still periodically being jolted awake with dreams that the bombs had fallen.

As for today, I’m grateful we no longer face the spectre of imminent annihilation (though I don’t think the alternative of lots of small scale terrorist attacks is much better). I feel fortunate to have lived through the 90s, during which it seemed for a time, prior to September 11, 2001 anyway, that we could think about war and peace on a human scale again, free of the shadow of the Cold War. I think this is part of what is at the root of my opposition to the restriction of our liberties, the reckless headlong plunge toward war in the Middle East, the growing cloud of suspicion (which has gotten so bad that a dark-skinned photography student can be singled out as a possible terrorist for taking photos of one of Seattle’s most notable tourist attractions) of our fellow man: that I have tasted freedom from fear in my lifetime and do not want to surrender to fear once more.

Here Bonhoeffer points the way, in his essay “After Ten Years,” written in 1943 during his imprisonment. Two things he wrote in this essay, after being denied the freedom to publish, to preach, to teach, and ultimately to leave his cell, stick with me in some quiet way:

Surely there has never been a generation in the course of human history with so little ground under its feet as our own. Every conceivable alternative seems equally intolerable. We try to escape from the present by looking entirely to the past or the future for our inspiration, and yet, without indulging in fanciful dreams, we are able to wait for the success of our cause in quietness and confidence. It may be however that the responsible, thinking people of earlier generations who stood at a turning-point of history felt just as we do, for the very reason that something new was being born which was not discernible in the alternatives of the present. …

Optimism: It is more prudent to be a pessimist. It is an insurance against disappointment, and no one can say “I told you so,” which is how the prudent condemns the optimist. The essence of optimism is that it takes no account of the present, but it is a source of inspiration, of vitality and hope where others have resigned; it enables a man to hold his head high, to claim the future for himself and not to abandon it to his enemy. Of course there is a foolish, cowardly kind of optimism which is rightly condemned. But the optimism which is will for the future should never be despised, even if it is proved wrong a hundred times. … To-morrow may be the day of judgment. If it is, we shall gladly give up working for a better future, but not before.

Come in, Snoopy: do you read?

commander thomas stafford and the Apollo 10 mission mascot

I followed a pointer from Scoble to the Apollo Image Gallery at the Project Apollo Archive. This is a fabulous online archive of photos from the first manned US space flights through the last Apollo mission, including:

  • The original seven astronauts
  • The “Freedom 7” launch carrying Alan Shepard into space
  • Ed White performing the first US space walk during Gemini 4
  • The tragic fire that cost the lives of Ed White, Gus Grissom, and Roger Chaffee during a training session for Apollo I at Pad 34
  • Apollo 10, on which the command module was “Charlie Brown” and the lander was “Snoopy” (prompting some fabulous publicity photos (see above) and a classic Peanuts strip)—see also this interesting discussion about the “Silver Snoopy” quality award that was instituted to get the program back on track after the Apollo 1 disaster
  • An enormous set of photos from Apollo 11, the first manned landing on the moon
  • Apollo 13, the mission that inspired the movie
  • And all the rest of the missions through Apollo 17 in 1972

It’s tremendous to see this archive of photos, many of which I’ve grown up with, become available on line. It’s also a bit sad. On the day I was born in 1972, the Apollo 17 crew was just getting ready to start the final manned mission. I was barely two weeks old when the crew splashed down into the Pacific Ocean. In the intervening 31-plus years, man hasn’t left Earth orbit.

(I can’t link directly to the images in the archive at present because it’s been overwhelmed with traffic and is temporarily being mirrored offsite.)

PhotoPeer lights up

Paul Colton’s other software company, PhotoPeer, released its first downloadable bits yesterday, in the form of the PhotoPeer client for the Mac. It’s an impressive effort so far, integrating pretty seamlessly with iPhoto. I’m still waiting for both my invitations to others to join the service to be accepted so that I can see how it all works, though.