Journal: News & Comment

This is "Penmachine.com: June 2005," a page that archives an entire month's entries from my online journal. The latest material for that month is at the top. For my newest entries, visit the home page.

Thursday, June 30, 2005 - newest items first
# 9:58:00 PM:

Last day of June

Leg WrapHere's how the day went:

  1. My oldest daughter stepped on a small terra cotta pot by accident last night. Shortly after midnight this morning, we returned home from the emergency ward, and she had eight stitches in the bottom of her right foot. No swimming for at least a week, and she needs crutches to walk. (Yesterday was the last day of school.)

  2. B.C.'s Queen of Oak Bay ferry lost power and plowed through a small-craft marina at Horseshoe Bay, crushing 15 to 20 small boats and causing chaos in Vancouver's traffic all day, just as the Canada Day long weekend (one of the busiest for the ferry service) got going. I wasn't anywhere near the crash, but it was all over the news.

  3. Vancouver's straight-talking mayor, Larry Campbell, announced that he will not seek another term, and is leaving any kind of public office altogether. Indicting politics in the city, and more generally, he essentially said that political life isn't cut out for a pragmatic, extremely popular, and all-around good guy like him. I work in Vancouver, but I don't live there, but I admire Larry. Too bad he's leaving.

  4. At work, we had a mysterious and persistent computer problem that stressed everyone out for most of the day. On top of that, in the process of running around to try to fix it, one of the staff accidentally tripped a burglar alarm in the office, jarring us further.

  5. Because of the late-night hospital visit, I took the car to work today instead of biking or taking transit. And the traffic on the way home sucked.

But to make up for it all, my family and co-workers all wished me happy 36th birthday, and my wonderful, lovely wife got me gift certificate for a spa treatment this weekend. At home, we had some Me-n-Ed's pizza and nice cabernet sauvignon wine for dinner. My daughter is feeling okay, and is learning to hobble along—her younger sister has been a great help too. No one was hurt in the ferry accident, and the computer problem is on its way to being fixed. Traffic has calmed down. So after everything, I feel good tonight.

Maybe it's the wine. But you know, it's damned good wine. Have a happy Canada Day.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2005 - newest items first
# 5:04:00 PM:

First podcast update

That didn't take long, did it? My first update is another song, this time with vocals. They are a remix of some samples from The Chris Pirillo Show. Why? Because he and Ponzi did such a good job with last week, and because the show was funny. So go check out "Pirilloponzi."

If you're subscribed to the Penmachine Podcast, you probably have the song already even if you didn't know it.

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# 8:29:00 AM:

Getting Apple to accept your podcast into its directory

Anders in Norway found a fix for when Apple's iTunes Podcast directory won't accept your podcast feed:

I had this problem as well, even when using the Apple supplied example from their PDF. The fix was to remove the categories outside the item tag. (ie: categories only inside an item) I wasted a day on that one right there.

In other words, if you use Apple's new <itunes:category text="Music" /> element inside your podcast feed (no matter what's inside the quotes), make sure it only applies to individual <item> elements, not to the overall <channel>—even though Apple indicates otherwise in their podcast specifications (PDF).

In other words, when iTunes says, "We are currently experiencing technical difficulties. Please try again later," it really means, "You followed our instructions, but they were wrong and we won't tell you how to fix them." Whoops.

Still, it's good that it works in the end, and I hope Apple makes the effort to go beyond just the big media podcasts over time.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2005 - newest items first
# 11:58:00 PM:

Let's rock with the Penmachine Podcast

[Derek at the Northern Voice conference]To put my money where my mouth is, following the new version of iTunes from this morning, there is now the Penmachine Podcast.

Right now it consists of my previously-published demo songs. However, now you can subscribe to them with a program like iTunes (version 4.9 or higher). Then, whenever I add a new track (and I have some ideas for the next few days), you'll get it automatically, and it can go straight to your iPod. Cool, eh?

How do you subscribe? The easiest way, once I've indexed it there, is to search for "penmachine" in the iTunes store's Podcast directory (see instructions). Otherwise, you can click and drag the orange and grey "RSS Podcast" button RSS Podcast or the address http://www.penmachine.com/rss/podcastmp3.xml to your iTunes window (or other podcast subscription program). Get the latest version first.

If you don't know about podcasting, then read up or check out Technorati's search for more references.

Alas, I won't be in the iTunes Podcast Directory just yet:

iTunes podcast submission experiencing technical difficulties

UPDATE: See the fix for that problem.

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# 11:56:00 AM:

Well, that's pretty cool

iTunes podcast uploads

As of today, you can publish your own radio show to iTunes for anyone to download and listen to on their iPods, or listen to thousands of shows from around the world. It looks like Apple won't publish them automatically, but will vet them somehow, and I'm not sure how that will work. But this is big news for the podcasting community.

Go ahead and subscribe to CBC Radio's Quirks and Quarks or Todd Maffin, why don't you?

Here are some podcasts from at the Gnomedex wiki.

Or go make your own show! Here's some music to listen to while you're at it.

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Monday, June 27, 2005 - newest items first
# 8:59:00 PM:

How far did the tsunami go inland?

A village near the coast of Sumatra lies in ruin.Six months later, I find a lot of people coming here trying to figure out how far the tsunami of last December 24 went inland. Here's one:

Derek, I apologize for asking this question but I find there are over 9 million entries on the Asian disaster. I have a friend who does not have a computer and she asked me how far the tsunami went inland. I cannot find the information. She has relatives there and they were not harmed so I'm not sure why she wanted to know. I "thought" I saw on the news when this first happened that it went 1 mile inland. Do you know if that is the approximate? Thanks for your help.

Following up on my earlier consolidated article about the Indian Ocean tsunami, here's my answer:

There were several places where the tsunami went a lot further than a mile inland, and many, many where it did not. But it's not a simple relationship of how close those places were to the earthquake that caused the tsunami.

How far inland the tsunami went (or any tsunami would go) varies widely depending on:

  • How close the land location you're talking about was to the quake (it would be different for Sumatra than Somalia) and in what direction (Sri Lanka was in the east-west path, Bangladesh wasn't).

  • What sorts of intermediate objects (islands, channels) lie between it and the quake (Thailand and the west coast of Sri Lanka and India were hit even though they weren't in the direct path, because the waves diffracted around channels and headlands; much of Malaysia and the rest of Indonesia was protected by intermediate islands, and outside the Indian Ocean there was little effect because of intervening land masses).

  • The shape of the seafloor near land (shallower and steeper slopes lead to very different kinds of tsunami waves once they hit shore). Watch the simulation at the Seed tsunami page to see what I mean.

  • The shape, slope, and composition of the land itself where the tsunami hit (a cliff would be very different than a gentle shore slope) and how far that shape, slope, and composition reach inland (a steep slope that ends in a wall wouldn't let the tsunami get far; a shallow slope that extends a long way would).

  • What kinds of buildings, plants, and other material were on the seashore (dense forest or habitation can slow or redirect or channel the tsunami's waves).

So, in some places (like where my friend Mark was in Malaysia), there were just higher than normal surf waves (and he was able to walk out of chest-high water), while only a few hundred metres away people were swept out to sea by massive surges. Similarly, in places with shallow, gradual slopes both under and above the sea, close to the quake, the tsunami traveled several miles inland, as in Banda Aceh in Sumatra and in some places in Sri Lanka.

In other places nearby, it may have gone hardly anywhere because of steep cliffs, or because it was a long way and perhaps also in an off-axis direction (Somalia, Bangladesh). The local topography (above and below the sea) determines almost everything.

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# 11:49:00 AM:

Fixing Blogger's clear:both weirdness

UPDATE: Here's Blogger's fix, which works fine for me—there is now a setting to get rid of the extra code, which is okay, but not the best for usability for site publishers. But it will do.

My sidebar is back. Blogger changed the way they did a few things, which inserted a chunk of useless web page code into my site—and that put a huge blank space between the first journal entry title on this page and the entry itself, but I think it's fixed now.

I still wish Blogger hadn't broken it, and I'm hoping nothing elsewhere in my site has been harmed by my fix, which is this one (I had to do it in two places—my stylesheet and my Blogger template file—to make sure it stuck):

I was able to fix the "clear:both" Blogger glitch with the following addition to my stylesheet:

div { clear: none !important; }

Adding "!important" will override the "clear:both" that Blogger is inserting in our posts.

If you do spot something that is out of whack, please post a comment. Blogger has at least acknowledged the problem, so I'm hoping they can back it out and get things back to normal.

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# 11:11:00 AM:

Cheap Frankenstein drums

Derek's kitJeremy, with whom I sat on a panel in February, is buying some new drums.

In my 16 years of playing drums professionally, I've only owned two kits, both cheap Pearl Export and CB Percussion setups from the early '90s. (I rotate which ones I use onstage and which ones remain set up in the basement.) I used a band-mate's classic Ludwigs for awhile, but preferred my cheapies. My snare drum and cymbals are the only things I spent a lot of money on. (Note: low-end modern stands and other metal hardware are superior to the stuff that used to come with even expensive drums in the '60s and '70s.)

In part, I think it's because with cheaper drums I don't worry much about them. I replace hardware and stuff as it breaks over time, so the kits become more Frankenstein by the year. Maybe one day I'll spring for something higher end, as Jeremy is. Ayotte and Taye (where Ayotte's founder now works), both HQed here in Vancouver, are on top of my list.

I recommend Sabian cymbals. Not only are they good, they're Canadian, made in New Brunswick.

Interestingly, Jeremy's Gretsch drum brand is owned by Kaman (like my CBs), while Gretsch guitars come from Fender. They began as part of the same company decades ago, but now only the brand remains in common—a sign of the times.

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# 12:49:00 AM:

The nominator

I think, although I am not certain because of a fuzzy memory, that I nominated John Gruber's "The Location Field Is the New Command Line" for inclusion in Joel Spolsky's anthology book on great writing about software—in addition to Rick Schaut's essay about Mac Word 6.

So while I may not be all that good at writing about software, I'm on a roll nominating it, with up to 7% of the essays in Joel's book originating from my recommendations.

Or maybe it was someone else.

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Sunday, June 26, 2005 - newest items first
# 11:32:00 PM:

That is one serious mocha

Mocha poured by BobCan't say how it tastes, but this caffè mocha from Victrola Coffee in Seattle is the most impressive thing I've seen, including those from world-renowned Caffè Artigiano here in Vancouver.

Rowrr!

Still, because I do know how it tastes (stupendous), and because they now have a few locations around downtown and West Vancouver, I'll plug caffeartigiano.com anyway.

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# 8:14:00 PM:

All of Derek's Gnomedex photos

Gnomedex Sign in Burnaby Easy Squeeze Cheese 2 Easy Squeeze Cheese 1 Seattle Tram-Squished Pennies 2 Seattle Tram-Squished Pennies 1 Google Flashers 7 Google Flashers 6 Google Flashers 5 Google Flashers 4 Google Flashers 3 Google Flashers 2 Google Flashers 1 Kids on Sculpture Gay Pride Dyke March Von's Beer Pulls 2 Von's Beer Pulls 1 Alaskan Viaduct 4 Alaskan Viaduct 3 Alaskan Viaduct 2 Alaskan Viaduct 1 Four Screens Kayak Simulator, Odyssey Center Outside Lunch 4 Outside Lunch 3 Outside Lunch 2 Outside Lunch 1 Lunchers at the Simmons' Aggregator Table Sheila and Brent Simmons of NetNewsWire Dave Winer & Chris Pirillo's Trademark in a Sea of Laptops Many Apple Laptops (and a Few Others) Steve Gillmor in the Front Row Dan Gillmor: Fight the Content Cartel! Citizen Media Panel The Video Room Deep Sea Diver is Thirsty Yum. Mussels. Ivar's Fish-n-Chips Four Monitors Julie Leung Monitors Julie Leung iChat Bonjour List Seattle Walkabout 1 Seattle Walkabout 2 June 23 Soiree 02 June 23 Soiree 03 June-23-Soiree-10 June-23-Soiree-09 June-23-Soiree-06 June-23-Soiree-05 June-23-Soiree-08 June-23-Soiree-04 View from the Bay Observation Room View From the Paramount Paramount Hotel Room Late Night iSight
at Flickr

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# 6:47:00 PM:

Post-Gnomedex thanks

Derek Mill @ GnomedexI wanted to thank three other people for the experience at this weekend: Kris Krug, who took a ton of great photos—plus set up the aggregator—and (of course) Chris Pirillo and Ponzi for putting the event together.

But really, Chris and Ponzi, six-pump vanilla lattes? That's scary.

Scary.

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Saturday, June 25, 2005 - newest items first
# 8:37:00 PM:

Last night in Seattle

Sorry my family and I had to bail out from the Seattle Fairmont get together this evening—the kids were getting hungry!

Thanks to Mike from Hacking Netflix, Angela from USA Today, Dylan from DABU, Thomas from Soot-n-Smoke, Jason, Sheila and Brent, and everyone else I met at the conference—and of course the people from Bryght, Darren, Julie, and Ted (plus their kids), whom I knew already.

I've posted 35 photos to Flickr so far, and there will be more tonight. So far, my favourite is this one, which wasn't even from the conference itself.

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# 5:00:00 PM:

Adam Curry's keynote notes

Years ago, Adam Curry was an MTV veejay, who registered the mtv.com domain before the network even understood what was going on with the Web. More recently, he helped co-invent podcasting, and he gave the closing keynote for . Here are the live notes... [READ MORE]

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# 4:15:00 PM:

Tomorrow's digital realities notes

How the law applies to blogs, RSS, websites, and the new digital environment is an ever-changing set of questions and answers. Denise Howell (lawyer), Buzz Bruggeman (lawyer), and Jason Calacanis (lawyer-baiter from Weblogs Inc.) had a big talk about it at . Here are the live notes... [READ MORE]

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# 2:25:00 PM:

Tomorrow's RSS and tomorrow's media notes

Before and after lunch today at today, Bob Wyman from PubSub, Mark Fletcher from Bloglines, and Scott Rafer from Feedster spoke about "Tomorrow's RSS," and JD Lasica, Terry Heaton, and Cory Bergman spoke on "Tomorrow's Media." Here are my notes:

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# 10:58:00 AM:

Notes from Julie Leung's personal blogging talk

At this morning, Julie Leung (whose family shared dinner with my family and David Robertson last night at Ivar's) gave an adapted version of her talk from Northern Voice in Vancouver, about personal blogging. [READ MORE]

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# 10:24:00 AM:

Notes on MindManager

Hobie Swan from MindJet spoke about his company's MindManager mind-mapping software to open the day today. Here are some brief notes... [READ MORE]

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Friday, June 24, 2005 - newest items first
# 5:46:00 PM:

Notes from afternoon Gnomedex sessions

There were several sessions in the afternoon at the conference, and I made a few (incomplete) notes. [READ MORE]

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# 1:11:00 PM:

What does the Microsoft RSS announcement mean?

In effect, Microsoft has said that it is bringing online syndication feeds into Windows sometime next year. So what will happen?

Microsoft's ideas—subscriptions and syndication part of every part of the operating system or any application that wants to use it; let's make the way we've tweaked subscriptions open for anyone to use and modify—are good. But if that's going to work, it will start right now.

By the time Longhorn is actually released, it will bring to a wider audience something that will already be a fait accompli on the web through applications, Linux, the Mac OS, and so on. I think it will happen, but if it doesn't, I doubt subscriptions will be the revolution they're being purported to be at this morning. [READ MORE]

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# 10:38:00 AM:

Microsoft's Dean Hachamovitch and Amar Gandhi's Gnomedex keynote on Internet Explorer 7

  • Microsoft’s Dean Hachamovitch and Amar Gandhi’s keynote on IE 7.
  • Chris Pirillo: This will be a keystone for how RSS and stuff are going forward.
  • Amar is the Group Program Manager for IE.
  • Dean: Honoured to be at Gnomedex because of everyone who’s here.
  • Microsoft is about 10 or 12 miles away.
  • You may not have seen Microsoft’s campus, so I brought some photos.
  • (The Death Star.) It’s an artist’s rendering based on what some of you have written in your blogs.

Here are the live notes… [more]

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# 10:24:00 AM:

Notes from Dave Winer's Gnomedex keynote on OPML

  • “The smarts are out there.” - the “unconference” idea
  • Unconferences are kind of like blogs — you don’t need an editor. If you want to publish it, that’s good enough.
  • The same thing is true about the Internet as a development environment.
  • Let’s chop things up into tiny little pieces.
  • It takes a licking and keeps on ticking.
  • The RSS wars were about a misperception that Dave was a platform vendor, not an individual.
  • Things are now really shifting in a very visible way.
  • Technology control is not the way of the future.
  • Warning: I have opinions, and you’re allowed to disagree with them. I’d prefer that you don’t argue with me about my right to have it.

Here are the live updates… [more]

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# 12:57:00 AM:

It's not my fault that Blogger broke my website today

UPDATE to the UPDATE: Here's Blogger's fix, which works fine for me—there is now a setting to get rid of the extra code, which is okay, but not the best for usability for site publishers. But it will do.

UPDATE: I'm far from the only one, and have found some potential fixes. We'll see what happens.

As of my first post today (24 June 2004), but not on earlier posts that I have not updated, the first paragraph of any journal entry here that I add or edit (but not the headline) begins with an odd chunk of HTML code: <div style="clear:both;"></div>

That's not in my website template. It's not in the text of entries I write. It screws up the way my stylesheet behaves, so my blog is visually broken (you'll notice it if you visit on the Web instead of reading in RSS—just scroll waaaaay down to read things).

Where did it come from? How can I fix it? I wonder if Blogger can fix it, since I didn't put it there? Did they update something that added it recently, as in around sometime in the last 12 hours? Did they do it because I snuck out of the Blogger/Google-sponsored soirée for dinner with my family?

I've told them, "It's annoying! Make it stop! Thanks."

Examples:

Places it doesn't happen (i.e. updated before midnight today):

Argh.

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# 12:43:00 AM:

Laptops, digicams, glasses, and seaside views

Paramount Hotel RoomAttendees at are posting many photos at Flickr. You'll notice that many of us resemble the logo of conference organizer Chris Pirillo—my wife and daughters all thought it was a picture of me. [READ MORE]

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Thursday, June 23, 2005 - newest items first
# 10:25:00 AM:

One big feed of news

Kris Krug's Gnomedex aggregator has an RSS feed. Navarik has a page explaining feeds for those who don't know about them. One thing I've learned about already are the strong rumours of a big announcement at the conference: a preview of Microsoft's new Internet Explorer 7... [READ MORE]

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# 12:20:00 AM:

Bathrobe blogging

Late Night iSightWhile the family sleeps here in a motel in Arlington, Washington on our way to , I have turned on the iSight camera I borrowed from Bill (he's on vacation).

It works surprisingly well in near–total darkness, with my face illuminated only by the flat panel of my iBook. You sure can see those smile creases on my nearly–36-year-old face now.

The iSight may be the most efficient way to capture off-the-cuff photos at the conference sessions, as I suspect I'm likely to do. Keep an eye here, at Windward, and at Flickr (where I note I'm not the only one blogging in a bathrobe this evening) to see how that goes.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005 - newest items first
# 2:11:00 PM:

Rick Schaut's essay on Word 6

I'm glad to see that Microsoft's Mac Word guy Rick Schaut had his essay on Mac Word 6 published in Joel Spolsky's new book. Apparently it was thanks to my nomination, which is a surprise.

Maybe that will make up for all the nasty things I say about Word, even when I'm making money teaching people how to use it.

By the way, Rick, will you be at ?

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# 1:20:00 PM:

Open formats: what does it take?

Even traditional technology companies are coming to see the value of open data communication and storage formats—a key element of Navarik's success, and a common thread in this week's big tech conference in Seattle. Yet problems remain.

is a bit of an anomaly. For one, the registration fee includes food. More generally, it's a conference with no clear purpose—and that seems intentional. Organizer Chris Pirillo's tongue-in-cheek taglines for it include calling it "the technology people aggregator," saying that it's attended by "influencers, entrepreneurs, and tech enthusiasts," and that it's about "producing, consuming, and monetizing technology." [READ MORE]

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# 12:11:00 PM:

Top 100 movie quotes

It's telling that many of the top 100 movie quotes of all time have so entered our consciousness that plenty of people don't even think of them as being from movies at all—especially if, like me, you know lots of the quotes despite never having seen the films:

  • "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."
  • "I coulda been a contender."
  • "Go ahead, make my day."
  • "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"
  • "I see dead people."

...and so on.

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# 11:33:00 AM:

Acres of bloggers

Fish 'n' ChipsA few of us with families coming to are going to Ivar's Acres of Clams (on Pier 54, a few blocks south of the conference's Pier 66 on the waterfront) for dinner Friday around 6:00 pm, following the conference agenda but before the networking soirée. We'll be making reservations (thanks, Julie), since a mob of hungry geeks with hungry families won't want to wait around.

If you're coming—kids not required, of course!—please add yourself (with number attending) to the Gatherings wiki page (you'll need to set up a free account, then click the Edit button at the top) under the "Family Dinner" heading.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005 - newest items first
# 11:44:00 AM:

They're tails

In honour of this week's trip to Seattle, here is a history of the Starbucks logo.

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# 9:26:00 AM:

Gnomedex blog aggregator

Vancouver's Kris Krug has created a web page that automatically compiles and aggregates current blog posts from people who will be attending the conference this week in Seattle... [READ MORE]

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Monday, June 20, 2005 - newest items first
# 11:10:00 PM:

Skunk truck

Skunk TruckA couple of weeks ago, there was a distinct whiff of skunk in our neighbourhood. I assumed one had run into a raccoon or a dog and let loose with its scent. But the smell persisted over several days, which was more like Pepe le Pew than a real skunk.

Kerry K-Love figured it out this weekend. There was, it turned out, a dead, bloated skunk trapped just beneath one of the storm sewer grates in the alley next to our house. My wife called it in to the city's sewer maintenance department, and this was the reaction of Deirdre, who answered the phone:

"Yuck."

Today a large, orange City of Burnaby sewer-pump truck arrived. The operator spent some time talking on his radio, so I went out to chat with him.

"My supervisor told me there was a storm drain to unclog," he said. "But he didn't say what was clogging it, and he chuckled a bit when he told me to come clear it out. I was wondering why. Now I know.

"It looks like it's been decapitated, by the way."

A dead, bloated, decapitated skunk carcass trapped in our storm sewer. Greaaaaat.

It must have died or been killed uphill from here, then fallen in (or have been sleeping in) the storm sewer during one of our recent heavy rains, which washed it down to our block, where it became trapped under the grate.

Skunk Truck SuckBefore the pump-truck operator proceeded, he called in the SPCA, who arrived and performed a quick inspection. Then he pulled up the sewer grate and used the large-bored suction hose to suck the dead skunk into the truck's (thankfully) sealed sewer tank. He drove off.

"Thanks!" I shouted after him.

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Sunday, June 19, 2005 - newest items first
# 11:40:00 AM:

Wrong

Robert Scoble writes something you don't see very often from anyone: "In the face of overwhelming evidence, I admit I'm wrong."

It's unfortunate that, for nearly all of us, overwhelming evidence is what it usually takes. I hope that the next time I'm wrong I can be similarly forthright.

He also implies that his employer Microsoft will be one of those companies making a big gnomedex announcement this week.

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# 11:30:00 AM:

Profiling a conference and its founder

The Seattle Times has posted a profile of conference organizer Chris Pirillo, which also provides a good summary of what the conference is about... [READ MORE]

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# 1:00:00 AM:

Navarik's man on the street at Gnomedex

Rumour has it that at least a couple of big technology announcements will happen at Gnomedex this week. In the meantime, attendees are posting to the conference wiki news page and its forums, reading the latest updates, figuring out what to do in Seattle, and arranging to meet for lunch.

I'll be cross-posting whatever I write about all that ness here and at the Windward weblog over at Navarik's site, since I work for them and they're sending me down. You can find the rest of this entry over there already... [READ MORE]

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Saturday, June 18, 2005 - newest items first
# 10:49:00 AM:

Links of interest (2005-06-18):

  • "As I can personally attest, there's a good reason that fewer young Americans are pursuing careers in the sciences: the jobs suck."

  • Queen Elizabeth has an iPod.

  • "Smart and creative people are inevitably complicated, and the more successful they are, the less pressure there is on them to resolve those complications."

  • VanEats is five.

  • "The best recruiting department in the world can't make people want to work at a company that's moribund."

  • "No one was particularly happy when I told them I found a vintage wedding dress for $40. In fact, they made it seem like spending so little on a dress was somehow cheating myself, as if spending cash consummated an essential female ritual. I, however, was elated with my score. I had never particularly dreamed of zeros flying out my bank account as if they were bubbles."

  • Win yourself a free nice Mac keyboard. (Disclaimer: if you use that link and win, I win one too.) Enter by tomorrow, Father's Day.

  • "What College Bakery is saying with that sign is 'The risk of being sued is so high that we'll give up on helping paying customers create their own cakes.' This is Trusted Computing for frosting."

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Friday, June 17, 2005 - newest items first
# 3:42:00 PM:

Maybe I should print it out

I hope this link to the Teenager's Guide to the Real World is still available in five years, when I gain my first teenage daughter. I sure could have used knowing some of this stuff in 1982.

The first chapter puts it this way:

  • If you don't pay the rent, you are homeless
  • You must have a job to pay the rent
  • Working 60 hours a week in a dead-end, minimum wage job to live in a crappy apartment with no a/c really stinks
  • Even if you don't care one bit about adults and jobs and school right now, you will once you have to pay the rent

Incidentally, this bit (and the whole love, sex, and marriage section) is rather too moralizing and also, on occasion, untrue by my moral compass. It also, as far as I can tell, completely ignores anyone who's gay. But the introductory portions of the book are extremely good, and even the love, sex, and marriage part has some good points, so on balance it's still worth reading.

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# 12:33:00 PM:

The ultimate home test of computing power

Yesterday afternoon, my boss and colleague Bill reported his frustration at helping his nephew convert a short movie (a school project), built using iMovie, to write to DVD. Whether because of some corrupt audio files or other weirdness, the DVD conversion consistently failed after several hours of rendering.

The first thing we did (since the project was overdue) was hook Bill's PowerBook up to a VCR and record a copy of the video straight to tape, with all the onscreen controls and menus and everything, since that was fast and better than nothing. Then I took the iMovie file home and set it to render to a plain DV stream video from my eMac.

It took—get this—17 hours (!) to do its job, and yielded a 5.3 GB file. I'm hoping we can burn that to DVD more easily.

So, if you want to test your computer's horsepower, throw some video at it. You'll understand why people who do it for a living spend whatever it takes to get the fastest computer possible.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005 - newest items first
# 10:58:00 AM:

Rock on, Vancity

My credit union has relaunched its website, and it's valid XHTML 1.0! Wow.

Some of the sub-pages don't validate entirely, but it's an impressive effort.

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# 7:54:00 AM:

China

UPDATE: It's satire, but here's a case in point (read it before the link expires).

A few years ago, one of my friends went out of her way to avoid buying products from mainland China, because of that country's abysmal civil rights record. After a time, she had to give up, because doing that has become nearly impossible.

So the arguments around the blogosphere about Microsoft's policy to prevent people from using "freedom" or "democracy" in the names, URLs, or titles of the blogs it runs via MSN (though not the actual post contents themselves)—to mollify the Chinese government—are understandable. On the one hand, appeasing awful governments turns many a stomach, including mine. What if this had been 1980s-era South Africa, or Nazi Germany in the 1930s, or Stalin's Russia, or North Korea?

On the other hand:

Question: for those of you who have condemned Microsoft for this action, how many of you avoid buying products manufactured, directly or indirectly, in China? If you own Apple products, take a look at the manufacturer's label. Oh, and be prepared to give up that cute little iPod.

and...

I also wish that women weren't treated as property in Saudi Arabia, but I still buy gas.

Let me turn this iBook over for a second. Hmm. Taiwan. Whew.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2005 - newest items first
# 6:48:00 PM:

The Great Burnaby Twister of 2005

We had weird weather today, with rain and thunder in Burnaby while it was sunny downtown, as well as further east. One consequence was some very unstable air, which created what I'll call a "proto-twister": a dust-devil–like air formation several hundred metres high that could, under the right circumstances, have turned into a tornado. Fortunately, it didn't, and soon dissipated. But I took some video with my digicam anyway:

Burnaby Twister (wide angle) Burnaby Twister (zoomed in)
Wide Angle (13.3 MB) | Zoomed In (2.8 MB)
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.

Movies require QuickTime. Audio commentary is by me, my wife, and (mostly) our seven-year-old daughter. For extra dramatic effect, try scrolling the video controller back and forth quickly to highlight the twister's spin.

When you look at it, you can see that this was no feeble wisp of wind—there was a real and substantial vortex building there. Compare it to some of the videos on the Web showing tornado formation and you'll see what I mean. It might only have been our hilly topography that managed to break it up before it became dangerous. Maybe. Or I might be exaggerating.

At the very least, there was a moment (about 45 seconds into my wide-angle video) where a funnel seemed to be forming. I briefly thought, "Oh shit," and considered ditching the camera while hustling the family into the basement.

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# 12:48:00 PM:

Curse of email

Getting a cold and having a busy weekend, combined with not being at work since Thursday, meant that I didn't really check my email for more than four days just now.

That, I have discovered, is a bad idea. Even with excellent spam filtering keeping the huge glopping heaps of nasty stuff out of my inbox, it took me two hours to wade through the legitimate mail this morning. And then there's all the stuff it's leading me to have to do.

In honour of the effort, I am officially giving in and spelling it email—without the hyphen—from now on. It took me two years after converting to website from Web site, but here I am, joining to modern world at last. Please recognize that this is a big change for me: I've been spelling it e-mail since at least 1983.

Now I can finally stop the tiny waste of effort it has been to write the word differently for work than for my own purposes.

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Sunday, June 12, 2005 - newest items first
# 12:51:00 AM:

Where oh where could this Ferris wheel be?

100_1770Yesterday I was invited to join the Guess Where Vancouver photo pool at Flickr, where each photo is a mystery whose location you are supposed to figure out.

I've already posted 10 photos, and will probably add more. The one shown here, while it has lots of detail, is probably the one of mine where the exact place is the hardest to determine accurately.

The easiest? I would have thought this one, but maybe more people have been here, because it generated the first correct guess.

By the way, Flickr is giving away free stickers too!

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Friday, June 10, 2005 - newest items first
# 9:43:00 AM:

Fixed width

People like me who've been using e-mail for a long time, as well as programmers and those who edit web page code, prefer working in a fixed-width (a.k.a. monospaced) font. There are many reasons, but unfortunately the field of genuinely good fixed-width fonts isn't that large.

Kaishaku has posted a page comparing various fixed-width fonts using the same text on a sample screen, including the upcoming Consolas for Windows Longhorn. All the samples are from Windows, so they don't include Mac examples such as the system-supplied Monaco, or Mishawaka or MPW. Given the chance, I'll use ProFont, but in some odd circumstances MPW works better in e-mail and for displaying the source code of web pages in browsers.

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Thursday, June 09, 2005 - newest items first
# 12:33:00 PM:

Activities for family members not coming to Gnomedex?

Modern ArtMy wife and two young school-age daughters (5 and 7) are coming down to Seattle with me during Gnomedex, but they're not exactly big Internet/blog/RSS/XML/open-source types (my wife has a blog, and they all have Gmail, though!).

They plan to spend the three nights/four days doing some other stuff—as will I, when I'm not at the conference. Perhaps other people going down are bringing guests who won't attend Gnomedex itself? If so, shall we organize some activities (Seattle Center, swimming, museums, shopping, family-friendly dinners, etc.) that they can do while we're all geeking out? Maybe some of the Vancouver attendees want to get together?

I'd appreciate some suggestions here for things to do. I'll post a similar request on the online forums in case others want to make comments there.

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Wednesday, June 08, 2005 - newest items first
# 11:47:00 PM:

When five is old

Balloon GirlsStarting an Internet-based company in mid-2000, just as the post–dot-com market implosion was in full collapse, seemed insane. Yet the people who started Navarik, where I work, did just that, and today the company turned five. We threw a bit of a party.

I remember when Bill got his first job in shipping after answering an ad in the newspaper, back when I was getting out of the music business and trying a (horrible) stretch in magazine advertising. By 1999 I was working for a software company, and my family stayed with Bill one weekend on Bainbridge Island near Seattle, as he tried his hand brokering ship voyages from the U.S.

The next year he and a couple of other former UBC colleagues we both knew—financed with their savings, some help from family and friends, and a few credit cards—started this new little company. In its first office, plugging in the teakettle sometimes brought down the web server.

Today I work for Navarik, and we have customers like Shell, Petro-Canada, Western Bulk Shipping, Star Shipping, Teekay Shipping, British Columbia's Chamber of Shipping, and Pacific Basin Shipping. We employ some of the best PHP and database programmers anywhere, and they've created large-scale, web-based software applications that do important work for huge companies worth billions of dollars—all based on open-source software, and open Internet data storage and exchange standards. It's real stuff.

Navarik, by the way, is about six months younger than my second daughter, who's barefoot in the blue dress in the photo. Lots can happen in five years.

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# 12:58:00 AM:

Mac users upset about Intel, but what of the future?

My U2 iPodSome Mac users are emotionally agitated by Apple's announcement to move to Intel microprocessors starting next year. It may be a hassle for developers, but for the average Mac user, the change will make hardly any difference at all. So why the stress?

Crossing the floor

The Microsoft-Intel axis has long been seen—sometimes sensibly, usually not—as "the enemy," so much that "Wintel" is often a single term. Plus we've heard for years and years from Apple and others that the RISC-based PowerPC approach is inherently superior to Intel's post-CISC architecture, and so on. And we also learned to be dismissive of the perpetual "Mac OS on Intel" rumours—in part because of Intel's supposed technical inferiority. Yet now Apple is saying, "Well, no, not anymore."

There was a bit of a similar feeling when IBM and Apple got together with Motorola to make the PowerPC in the first place (as well as failed projects like Taligent), since back in the Apple II days, IBM had been "the enemy" too. Intel has always, until now, belonged to the other side.

Here's the mythos: Cool computers like the Apple II, the Mac, the Amiga, the TRS-80, and the Atari 400 and 800, used non-Intel processors. Boring business machines and evil Windows used Intel. Even the original Apple I kit used a Motorola, er, sorry, MOS Technology (thanks, Yo) processor. And heck, if you were going to build a white-box PC to run Linux on, AMD is the underdog, and Intel is "Chipzilla."

What you're seeing in the emotional reaction is cognitive dissonance. For me, as long as we can avoid "Intel Inside" stickeritis, I'm sure we won't even notice that there's a different chip inside our Macs—except that it will be easier to run Windows emulation. Anyone who just uses Macs, like my in-laws, wouldn't care or even bother to understand why it matters at all to anyone.

Rebirth of the cool

What really interests me is how similar, or different, the Intel-using Macs Apple first releases will be to current PowerPC models. That's hardly a technical decision at all—I'm sure Apple could put a Pentium 4 in an eMac case and most people would be none the wiser. Two of the first PowerPC Macs (6100, 8100) in 1994 had the same case designs as preceding Quadra/Centris models (660AV, 840AV) from 1993, for instance.

I'd expect IntelMacs (what are we to call these things?) will sport USB 2 and FireWire 800 ports just as current Macs do. Don't forget all those HD video cameras, after all. But, in the Jobs-Ive era, the company could also take the approach that the new architecture needs a serious design refresh as well, so it wouldn't surprise me if the first Intel-based iMacs, iBooks, and Mac minis (low end first, Jobs says) change radically in their designs, perhaps setting another new trend as when the gumdrop iMacs, G3s, and iBooks (and stealth PowerBooks) morphed into the metal-and-white-plastic scheme Apple follows today.

Black, anyone? Maybe the U2 iPod is the harbinger.

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Tuesday, June 07, 2005 - newest items first
# 9:34:00 PM:

Hollowed soul

>> Guantanamo >>My plea about Guantanamo Bay last November didn't work, so I've been resisting following up on Amnesty International's recent report about U.S. war prisoners, because I wasn't sure what to say. Fortunately, Tim Bray had no such reticence:

...when the Neilsen-rating results come out there's a loser, and the loser always grumbles about how the methodology is busted and they're really not doing that bad. Similarly, whenever Amnesty International points the finger at some government, that government makes like a losing TV network and whines that the process is broken.

...being better than the gulags isn't good enough. When your Neilsen ratings are bad, you need to run better shows, and when Amnesty gets on your case, you need to stop brutalizing people.

The U.S. administration's policies on and treatment of those prisoners—guilty, evil, or not—are dismaying, and the reaction in the American news media to those who disagree is more so. I said before that what it does is "hollow out America's soul for dubious and short-term ends." I am sad for that, and each day it continues makes me sadder.

Our big scandal in Canada is a government threatened with collapse about money wasted on a corrupt and poorly run PR campaign. By comparison, it's laughable.

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# 7:19:00 PM:

The Paramount for Gnomedex it is

We decided on the Coast Paramount, which the kids and my wife already love, just from the website—and even though it has no pool. Hey, Wi-Fi throughout the hotel, I'm there. And the chain is based here in B.C., too.

Oh, and Dave Winer is presenting a keynote at , in which he promises to turn things around in a style of "unconference," where the audience is as much a part of the speech as he is. I'm interested to see how it goes.

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# 12:42:00 AM:

Going to Chris Pirillo's Gnomedex: hotel recommendations?

GnomedexBack in February I was on a panel at the Northern Voice conference with Chris Pirillo. He's the founder of the Gnomedex conference, which has its fifth annual fête in Seattle from June 23–25.

At the behest of Bill, my employer and colleague, I'll be attending Gnomedex this year as Navarik's representative. I'm not speaking this time, just going and hanging out with others who're doing the same, including Dan Gillmor and his brother Steve, Julie Leung, Vancouver's own photo-guy Kris Krug, the Northern Voice Roland TanglaoDarren BarefootBoris Mann troika (of course), Robert Scoble, and Adam Curry, with whom I share a trivial yet bizarre historical connection.

(I note that Gnomedex remains rather male-heavy, in contrast to Northern Voice's remarkable gender parity, which was unusual for a tech conference.)

One reason I'm going for Navarik is that we build commercial software that relies heavily on open-source infrastructure, and also works extensively with established internet data storage and exchange standards like XML, as well as feeds, blogs, and so on. Our customers include some of the world's biggest companies (you might have heard of some of them, like Shell). We may have some of the largest and most complex web-based PostgreSQL database applications anywhere, used by thousands of people on every continent but Antarctica. Yet Navarik remains very much under the radar in the technology community, because we haven't been extensively plugged into it.

I doubt my showing up and passing out business cards will change that very much, but it will be good to get a sense of what the "influencers, entrepreneurs, and tech enthusiasts" are up to. I'll blog the event, probably at Navarik's Windward blog as well as here. 's topic this year is apparently "the grassroots of RSS, blogging, podcasting, BitTorrent, and media." I call it a good excuse for geeky types to get together and kvetch.

Plus my wife and kids get to come to Seattle with me, which is a nice treat. We've been to Seattle enough times, and we're considering returning to the Mayflower Park Hotel, but the Warwick and Sheraton look good too. Any other recommendations within walking distance of the waterfront Bell Harbor Conference Center?

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Monday, June 06, 2005 - newest items first
# 11:28:00 AM:

Is that Hell freezing over?

The Apple switches to Intel rumours, bubbling for years and years, have finally come true. I'm sure everything will work out fine. My one hope: no "Intel Inside" stickers. Sticker mania is one of the things that mars Windows computers.

I found this particularly interesting:

Mac OS X has been "leading a secret double life" for the past five years, said Jobs. "So today for the first time, I can confirm the rumors that every release of Mac OS X has been compiled for PowerPC and Intel. This has been going on for the last five years."

Of course, this is not "Mac OS X will run on Windows PCs." Far from it. I expect the upcoming Intel-based Macs will have all the usual proprietary Apple hardware stuff otherwise: boot ROM, motherboard designs, etc.—so how much of a hack will it take to make a generic white box PC run Mac OS X-Intel, I wonder? How about AMD-based machines? It's likely to be substantial, but the previous performance penalties of translating PPC to x86 code would no longer apply.

Hmm, Microsoft Virtual Mac for Windows, anyone?

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# 8:14:00 AM:

Still good value, but not as good

A little over a year ago, my family bought an eMac as our primary computer. It's seen a lot of use, more than any other computer I think I've ever owned. While it's a tad noisy (the fan isn't too quiet, and it's right there behind the screen in front of your face), and the old-school CRT runs warm (something particularly noticeable on hot summer days), it remains a very capable machine.

The latest eMac update changes very little—in comparison to ours, the newest models have only a slightly faster processor and a more skookum DVD recorder. While the newer Mac mini is much smaller and sexier, and can be set up to be a bit cheaper with a screen, the eMac is still more powerful and includes everything you need (keyboard, mouse, display), so it's worth looking at.

Plus it harks back to the "giant molar" design of the Power Mac G3 All-in-One of seven years ago.

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Sunday, June 05, 2005 - newest items first
# 9:40:00 PM:

Gut busting

It's from last November, but still, each time I go back and watch this Strong Bad Email cartoon, I laugh so hard I can barely breathe. Particularly at the part about "Da Huuuuuudge." I don't know why.

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# 3:27:00 PM:

Whole lotta tunes

BBC Radio 2 has a big list of classic pop and rock songs, with informative writeups about most of them. Did you know, for instance, that Australian kids' performer Rolf Harris recorded a cover version of Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side"? You can give it a listen at the site.

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Saturday, June 04, 2005 - newest items first
# 12:03:00 AM:

Vitality in imprecision

In popular music, it's obvious how recording technology has changed things—from the echo of Duane Eddy's guitar recorded in an empty water tank through Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and hip-hop in its entirety, much of what we love to hear would be impossible in a purely live context.

It's puzzling, then, that classical music has, in general, remained so stuck in the 19th century. Or has it?

[At] the turn of the last century [...] "Freedom from disaster was the standard for a good concert." [...] Rehearsals were brief, mishaps routine. Precision was not a universal value. Pianists rolled chords instead of playing them at one stroke. String players slid expressively from one note to the next—portamento, the style was called—in imitation of the slide of the voice. And the instruments themselves sounded different, depending on the nationality of the player. French bassoons had a reedy, pungent tone, quite unlike the rounded timbre of German bassoons. French flutists, by contrast, used more vibrato than their German and English counterparts, creating a warmer, mellower aura. American orchestral culture, which brought together immigrant musicians from all countries, began to erode the differences, and recordings canonized the emergent standard practice. Whatever style sounded cleanest on the medium—in these cases, German bassoons and French flutes—became the gold standard that players in conservatories copied. Young virtuosos today may have recognizable idiosyncrasies, but their playing seldom indicates that they came from any particular place or emerged from any particular tradition.

[...]

Most modern performance tends to erase all evidence of the work that goes into playing: virtuosity is defined as effortlessness. One often-quoted ideal is to "disappear behind the music." But when precision is divorced from emotion it can become anti-musical, inhuman, repulsive.

I know first-hand the vitality of imprecision in live music. I am, by most technical standards, a fairly crappy drummer. Yet the parts of shows I play that people like the most are, by those same technical standards, the very crappiest—when I play a drum solo on my bandmate's guitar strings, when I circle around my kit while hitting cymbals during a break in a song, or even when I'm not playing at all, but leaping over my drums or falling backwards to crash to the ground at the end of the night.

Why people enjoy music is a great mystery that will probably never be solved. What is true is that the vast majority of people don't enjoy music for the precision and technique of the players, but for the intangible joy they create, however that comes about.

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Friday, June 03, 2005 - newest items first
# 10:26:00 PM:

Morbid stats for shopping malls

[eat play shop]I wonder how often people die at the mall?

What brings me to this question is that yesterday, when my youngest daughter and I were shopping, I noticed a man sleeping in one of the now-ubiquitous comfy chairs at our local mall (Canada's second largest). He looked old, and not in the greatest health. What, I wondered, would happen if he never woke up?

There must be procedures, probably the same as for any medical emergency, for when people die in a mall. Given how much time so many of us spend in such places, it must happen from time to time, even in non-accidental ways—from heart attacks and aneurysms, for example. Even simple old age. Yet we don't hear about it, so I have no idea what the numbers might be. In a year at a busy shopping centre, would it be one or two deaths, or a dozen?

There are worse places for the inevitable to happen. Those who don't avoid thinking about dying altogether usually imagine it happening in a hospital or their homes, or fear car accidents or murder. But when my time comes—many decades down the line, I hope—the mall would be an okay place for me to go.

On the other hand, I'd prefer not to cause the inevitable disturbance, so I won't plan on it.

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Thursday, June 02, 2005 - newest items first
# 10:36:00 PM:

New York London Paris Munich everybody talkin' 'bout pop muzik

000_0595KerryKLove has just posted an assortment of photos that she took in Hong Kong, Lebanon, San Francisco, and Kingston, Jamaica.

I'm lying. They're all from a two-block stretch of Kingsway near where she (and I) live in Burnaby, B.C., and she took the photos yesterday afternoon. I've written about the diversity of this place before, but there it is in pictures.

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# 11:36:00 AM:

Links of interest (2005-06-02):

Three days without a journal entry? Why not just round up a bunch of other people's, then?

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Journal Archive »

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