January 30, 2005

Laurie Anderson

So we went to a concert
At UCSD
And our seats were down front
Right in the center
And we had a most excellent view

And I thought
That is Laurie Anderson
And I thought
That looks just like Laurie Anderson
And I thought
She sounds just like Laurie Anderson
And I thought
That is Laurie Anderson

When we arrived
There was something wrong
The seats were right
The seats were perfect
But there was something wrong

Was it the air?
Was it the light?
And it was hard to breathe
And it was getting worse
And I looked up to the lights

And in the lights
There was a smoky haze
And I thought it was my glasses
I took them off to check
But it was smoke
Or it was fog
And I thought, they tested the smoke machine
During the sound check
But that seems cheesy for Laurie Anderson

And then it occurred to me
There were fifty candles on the stage
Scattered like stars
Stolen from churches
Flickering in the darkness
And slowly
Very slowly
Filling the auditorium with smoke

And I thought
Not good
And I thought
Hard to breathe
And I thought
Especially when one has a cold
And I thought

And the show started
And Laurie Anderson did her thing
And it was good
But it could have been better
There was a bombardment

There was a bombardment
Of the senses
Or more accurately
One sense
The sense
Of smell

But it wasn't the smoke
There was that
But it wasn't the smoke
That broke the threshold
No it wasn't the smoke
It was the perfume

Every woman at the concert
Seemed to be wearing their strongest perfume
Each scent was different
Total bombardment
Extreme perfume bombardment
Nasty stuff
Particularly the person
Wearing too much sandalwood
Smack-dab in front of us

And I thought
Of second-hand smoke
And I thought
"What about second-hand perfume?"
And I thought
of the movie SAFE
And I thought
Too much
When I should have been listening

Laurie's performance was excellent
Electric violin
Spoonfed monologue
Moody backgrounds
Though at times
Just at times
I thought
That with her use
of all those dark, moody themes
Low droning notes
The slow heartbeats
During those times
I expected her, or
If not her, Martin Sheen
To say
"Whatever you do, don't get off the boat.
Absolutely goddamn right."

She told anecdotes
Funny anecdotes
Sad anecdotes
Thoughtful anecdotes
About her dog
About NASA
About the moon
About 9/11
About the end of the world

Her only regret
During her time at NASA
Was that she didn't get to ride
The vomit comet
The audience laughed
And I thought
Laurie needs Flight School

If you get a chance
Go see Laurie Anderson
Her concert is excellent
I think
But don't bring your kids
They will fall asleep
Long before
The show is over

Posted by brian at 03:13 PM | Comments (3)

January 28, 2005

The Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow

This photo might not seem like much but it's a new favorite of mine. Snapped it while hurtling along on 280-South. That rainbow ends right among the cluster of Venture Capital buildings on Sand Hill Road. Considering I'd just pitched there the day before, I took this as a good sign. :-)

Posted by brian at 09:01 AM | Comments (2)

January 27, 2005

A9's Yellow Pages: CityBlock, Anyone?

Lots of blog chatter this week about Amazon/A9's new yellow pages project which includes photos of storefronts.

I've seen no mention of the Google-funded CityBlock project at Stanford University's Computer Graphics Laboratory. Here's a link to a 2004 IEEE paper (including a video) about the project.

I wonder if A9, located near Stanford and Google, and a partner of Google, was aware of the CityBlock project? I wonder if any of the CityBlock project people are now working at A9?

UPDATE: Some other interesting projects:

Posted by brian at 11:58 AM | Comments (0)

January 24, 2005

Tufte

Edward Tufte came to San Diego today, offering one of his day-long design seminars.

Edward Tufte (initials: E.T.) holding up a model of the space shuttle, mishaps of which he spent a lot of time talking about during the day. He also reminded people that the shuttle's "external tank" had the abbreviation E.T.

There wasn't a lot that was new (I've read two of his three design books), but it was fun to see original, hundreds-of-years-old, first-edition bound editions of books by Galileo, Newton, and others. If only such old books could talk: what stories they could tell.

Tufte complains a lot about the lack of resolution in computer displays, compared to what is possible in print (and what was possible even in the 1500's). How long do you think your website will last, he asked at one point.

This theme of leaving traces -- audit trails, something that could be archived -- popped up again and again during the day. In other words: use paper, he seemed to say. Leave a sheet of paper with all the people you give a PowerPoint presentation to.

The theme reminded me of the ongoing nagging feeling I have about the lack of library indexing of online publications -- online magazines, forums, you name it. Take Salon for instance. Still not indexed in the Readers Guide to Periodical Literature, and there's no print archive in libraries that I know of. Where will Salon be in 300 years? Or Slate, or any blog for that matter?

Experiencing Tufte
My Tufte experience began with a bad design: the registration tables had four or five people behind them, and I walked up to the second person from the left. Oops, mistake. That person only handled registrations for people whose last name began with "E" through "I" or something. There were three or four people behind the "A" through "D" table to the left. The problem? The visual cues were high above the tables, taped on the walls behind. Well, when you walk up to a seminar registration table, what do you look at, the table and the registrar seated there, or a little sign taped high up on the wall behind?

My next Tufte experience was to walk into the hotel conference ballroom and notice there was a line at the front of the room, a long line, with people holding identical books open. There was Tufte, seated at a table, doing, he would later explain numerous times, "office hours".

"Office Hours" is a cute euphemism for "sign autographs". He offered "Office Hours" during every break, during lunch, and even after the event ended at 415pm. By then nearly all of the 300 attendees seemed to have gone through "office hours" (300 people x $320 per person . . . not bad for a day's work, and he's got two days in L.A. starting tomorrow).

Tufte during one of the numerous "office hours".

I decided when the day was over to go get in line. A woman stood in front of me and a bunch of people filed in behind. We waited for Tufte to set up a table and sit down. Just then Tufte's student assistant came over and swiftly placed a cold bottle of Corona beer on the table. Tufte took one look at it and waved it away indicating he didn't want it. The assistant quickly and quietly removed the bottle.

Every Tufte seminar attendee receives a bunch of expensive Tufte books, and mine were in a plastic bag. Tufte seemed surprised when I got to his desk and did not hand him a book for him to sign.

"I'm not here for an autograph, I just have a question," I said. I am certain I was the only attendee that day who did not request an autograph.

He quickly looked up to me, annoyed. This was not protocol. Then he looked to the next person in line behind me and told him to step forward, that he would continue signing autographs while I asked my question.

While he busily continued signing autographs, I attempted to ask my question. It was hard to tell how he could possibly be paying attention given how fast he was signing, handing a book back, signing again, handing the next book back, etc.

I asked him, given how he'd spent much of this afternoon trashing PowerPoint, what did he think about VCs like Guy Kawasaki urging entrepreneurs to follow a strict 10-page PowerPoint format when pitching a startup idea? Given that he'd spent much of today's seminar railing against the evils of PowerPoint, what advice did he have for entrepreneurs trying to communicate to VCs?

He looked up to me, annoyed. I'd asked a stupid question, I guess: wasn't it obvious, his body language seemed to say, that the answer was to dump PowerPoint altogether? He shrugged, continuing to write autographs.

"Just give them something to read on a piece of paper," he mumbled. "It has five times the resolution!" He went back to signing books.

I paused, wondering if he was going to say any more, but he wasn't. So I said thank you and walked past the long line of autograph-seekers behind me, out of the huge ballroom, out of the hotel to the parking lot, and drove back to the office, to finish polishing up a PowerPoint presentation for three VC meetings over the next two days.

Posted by brian at 09:37 PM | Comments (1)

January 19, 2005

Reason #273 Why I'm a 10+ Year Fan of OmniGroup

How can you not like a company that offers Pet Testimonials for their products?

Ever since they ported DOOM to NeXTSTEP, and originally shipped OmniWeb for NeXT machines, I've been a fan of OmniGroup, the little Seattle software outfit that forever has had its own resident che f for its employees.

Here at EVDB we're big users of OmniGraffle Pro, as well as OmniOu tliner and, for me personally at least, OmniDiskSweeper from time to time.

Posted by brian at 02:01 PM | Comments (0)

January 18, 2005

Follow-up on Intuit QuickBooks

So today I called QuickBooks back and had a very different experience.

The timeline:

0949 --- called 888 number. Busy.

0954 --- called 888 number. Ring. "Welcome to intuit. Thank you for calling the QB Suppoert Network. Enter your 10 digit business phone number incl area code now."

0954 --- I enter the same 10-digit business phone number I entered yesterday.

0954 --- There's a long pause, and then: "Please hold while your call is being transferred to the next available support representative. This call may be monitored for quality assurance."

0955 --- After a very short wait, "Hi, my name is Robin and I'll be your customer support representative today. Can I have your first name?"

0955 --- I give Robin my first name. Then I explain the problem I had yesterday with trying to register software and the registration key code supplied by Intuit itself turns out to be invalid with its own software product...

0956 --- "That's a known issue, we have a ouple ways of dealing with it. Let me get your account up here.... " She had my phone number, company name, company address, and my name, and she asked me to verify stuff for simple authentication. Then she said, "I am going to call over to a resource team who have access to the database, hopefully we can get your key code from them.... so if you don't mind holding I'm just going to call over to them........ "

0957 --- Now on hold, listening to happy guitar music....

1000 --- Happy guitar music fades out, syrupy saxaphone with putrid piano and cheesy strings music takes over....

1004 --- Syrupy saxaphone with putrid piano and cheesy strings music fades out. . .

1004 --- Horn music comes on --- a happy cheery cheese plastic version of 'Signed Sealed Delivered'.......--- bnut then the music suddenly cuts off ---

1004--- Robin's back on --- "The keycode is in our database.... I should be able to register it and register by phone. Let me read you the keycode.... write it down on the yellow sticker.... " She reads me the long number.

1005 --- I paste the number into QuickBooks' register dialog box... it takes it! But then it comes up with a new form asking for a registration number! I don't have any such number... so I have to read to her the big long number that's on the screen. "I just have to generate it in my system..... you should write it down in your manual, in case you ever get a new Mac, you'll need to re-register, you'll need to have it written down... ok here it goes, it starts off with five zeros....." And she read me the long number. I read it back to her, clicked OK in the dialog box, and it said, "Thank you for registering!"

So, all done.

I then quit the application because the thought of spending any time in QuickBooks today just made me go bleh . . . soon, I think, soon I will force myself to get reacquainted with this app . . .

Posted by brian at 05:40 PM | Comments (9)

January 17, 2005

SlowBooks Amateur 2005 for Macintosh

I bought a license for Intuit's QuickBooks Pro 2005 for Macintosh back in November and am finally getting around to installing it on my machine.

Thought it'd be a simple matter, really. No, turns out not to have been.

Popped the CD in the drive, up came the folders to drag over into my machine's Apps folder. No problem, worked fine.

Then I went to fire up QuickBooks Pro. Up it came, no problem. Then there was a dialog box, asking me to "Register Now" or "Remind Me Later". I clicked "Register Now."

Up comes a dialog box asking for the "Installation Key Code." "To continue," it said, "enter your key code." So I reached for the plastic sleeve that the CD came in, noticed the yellow sticker with the key code on it, typed in the code, and clicked OK.

Oops.

Ok, so maybe I made a typo. It's a long sequence of numbers. So I re-entered it. And got the same "Warning" dialog box. To prove I wasn't making a mistake, I selected the typed code from the dialog box, copied it, and then opened up a new TextEdit document, pasted the code in there, pressed ENTER a bunch of times, then reading from the yellow sticker I typed the code in again. Then I deleted all the blank lines so both codes were lined up right on top of each other. And they were identical.

So I got on the phone.

The number's right on the back of the packaging. "Expert Telephone Support," the heading reads. The little blurb below that said they're open Monday - Friday, 6am to 6pm Pacific Time. So I dialed the 888 number and waited.

A pleasant recorded woman's voice asked me to type in my ten digit business phone number including area code.

I typed it in.

"We're sorry, but that is an invalid business number," said the recording. (WTF!?) "Please enter your ten digit business phone number, including area code."

I typed it in again. Got the same complaint. It asked me to enter it again. This time I did not. I just pressed #.

"Please wait for the next available customer support representative."

I waited perhaps 30 seconds max, and a voice came on. "Can I get your name?" the man asked.

I gave him my name.

"What seems to be the problem, man?"

I told him the problem. I said I was typing in the correct Key Code as shown on the yellow sticker on the packaging.

"Ok," he said, mumbling, as if his thoughts were racing what to do, and not knowing at all what to do. "Ok so can you give me product code or a group code or something I can look up."

"I have the invoice right here. How about the Customer Number?" I said. "Or, Order Number?"

"Can you give me a product code or group code. I need product code or group code, do you see that anywhere?" Loud, awful coughing sounds on his end of the phone.

"Um, where should I be looking? I don't see any such numbers on the invoice here."

"Can you go to the Help menu and click on About?"

"No, can't do that. There's no About in the Help menu. Um, this is a Mac."

"No About menu?"

"About's in the Quickbooks menu. I just clicked there. What would you like me to read to you?"

"What numbers do you see."

"Um, it says Version 7.0f1"

(long pause, then) "Try pressing Control-Alt . . . uh . . . Control-Alt . . . Control Alt F1, man, or something . . . " He seemed to have lost his train of thought.

"Um, this is a Mac. There's no Alt key."

"There's an Apple key right? Hit Control Apple 1."

"Um, well, ok." I hit Control Apple 1, knowing full well this was pointless, but I was kind of curious: if it worked, would it reveal some Easter Egg messaging on the About menu?

No, it doesn't. What it does do is open up a blinking input cursor at the far upper left of the About window. A cursor you can type with. So I started typing stuff, seeing if somethign would happen if I typed all the way over to the far right --- would it wrap? No. No wrap.

So I told him it didn't do anything. (Why complicate matters?)

He coughed, horribly, once again. "You're not in the system, so I can't do anything. I need to get you into the system. I need a product code or group registration number in order to find out what your Key Code is."

I clicked the little round button to close the About window. Oops. It crashed Quicken Professional 2005 Macintosh Edition. Another dialog box came up to report the crash, er, unexpected error. I dismissed this dialog, and proceeded to dismiss this tech support person.

Another horrible cough. "I should transfer you over to the Apple Macintosh Customer Care Team."

(No shit, I thought.) "Okay."

"But there's a problem. Um . . . y'know somethin' . . . . where is it. . . . " The sound of pages flipping. "Can't believe the registration process . . . See, the support groups are closed tonight because it's Martin Luther King Night."

"Look, I'll just call back tomorrow, it's no big deal, I'd rather just get back to work and deal with this tomorrow."

"Ok I'll transfer you to the Macintosh Customer Care team. . . . just need a Case Number . . . . take a split second . . . " Long pause. "There's nothing here, we don't have nothing in this system. Mac users are so few and far between . . . " Another pause. "I'll transfer you over to the Mac division. See, there's a conflict of interest here." He couldn't just transfer me over, he had to re-live the reasons why he couldn't solve the problem. Lots of "Like I said"s were said. I tuned out. Then he said, "I apologize, and good luck over at the Mac group."

"Ok."

With that, he transferred me. Then I heard new, happy woman's recorded voice, asking me to hold. Some happy elevator music. And then, a new voice, man's voice, Indian accent.

"Good evening can I get your first name?"

"Brian."

"And your telephone number?"

"I'll give it to you but I'm not in your system, so . . . " I gave him the ten-digit number.

"EVDB, is it?" he asked.

I was amazed.

"Uh, yes."

"What is the problem?"

I told him the problem all over again.

He suddenly came to a terrible realization. "Oh, Mac?" he asked. "I'm very sorry. We have a dedicated department for Macintosh, but Macintosh is not working here, they are closed..."

"Fine how about I just call back tomorrow."

"Fine," he said, quickly, and hung up. Click.

Thus ends this customer's first experience with QuickBooks Professional 2005 for Macintosh.

Can it get worse?

UPDATE 18 Jan 2005: I've posted a follow-up to this story in the next blog entry.

Posted by brian at 06:27 PM | Comments (6)

The Timing of the Mini

Or, why one might wait and not buy their Mac Mini right away.

In a word: Tiger.

Note how Steve very carefully announced that Apple is on schedule to deliver MacOSX Tiger in the first half of the year.

Close enough (he's got until the end of June) to be realistic, but vague enough not to be specific. Because if he had been specific, I suspect it would hurt Mac Mini's initial sales.

I mean, after all, who'd want to buy a Panther-powered Mac Mini now, knowing that on such-and-such a date, not too far from now, you'll have to shell out $129 for the Tiger upgrade?

If Tiger were coming out in Feb/March, and that was announced, then I bet everyone would hold off on buying their Mini until then. $129 is a big chunk of change to add to a $499 computer. Better to wait, get Tiger bundled for free when it comes out.

Apple will have to offer some customers a grace period -- several weeks? -- where if you've bought your Mini after such and such a date, you get Tiger for free. No doubt Apple will hold off announcing the grace period date as well, as it would also trigger some people to hold off buying their Mini.

So, will I buy a Mini now? I might. But I sure would like to save $129 and get Tiger bundled for free.

Posted by brian at 05:06 PM | Comments (1)

January 16, 2005

Owned by the Crown (MP3)

Sorry, couldn't resist. For a limited time only . . .

Steve Jobs' 2005 MacWorld KeyNote, condensed to . . . sixty seconds. (60 sec MP3 download)


Update --
Here's a site that's done a concordance of common words and phrases mentioned by Steve at the keynote.

Posted by brian at 07:33 PM | Comments (5)

January 15, 2005

Accutars

AccuWeather has introduced talking avatars for its weather reports:

It seems more like a gimmick than anything else. And I'd much rather have richer maps and weather visuals than a happy, talking animated character.

It's days like this, however, that I'm glad to be in La Jolla and not Bismarck, North Dakota!

Posted by brian at 09:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Mysterious Symphony

It took twenty years, but it was worth the wait.

Back some time in 1984, I'd hooked up my stereo's tuner to my cassette recorder and recorded 90 minutes' worth of a classical FM station, not knowing what I might get, but hoping there might be something to listen to.

I'd lucked out: I'd nabbed a great recording of what's become one of my favorite symphonies. Only one problem. The tape ended before the announcer came on and explained what composer and symphony it was.

All I had was the tape, and once in a while over the years I'd listen to it again, not knowing who it was. Because of the FM source, there was hiss, a faint static, and even some faint interference from other stations, particularly noticeable during quiet passages of the recording. But what symphony was it? No clue.

Years and years later I finally figured it out, after hearing a piece of the symphony in a car radio and driving an extra distance just to keep listening until the announcer came on.

Bruckner's Fifth Symphony.

And so I raced out to the library and checked out two different CDs of that symphony, hoping I'd find the same recording I'd taped from the FM radio twenty years earlier.

Alas, as is so often the case, for me at least, these were different recordings -- each a different interpretation. Both were faster than the taped version I'd committed to memory, and they just wouldn't do.

So I googled and I searched AMG and other resources and found a bunch of recordings. One that seemed to get a lot of raves was a Deutsche Grammophon CD. Went to the store and bought it.

Very very close, but some significant differences. And that's when I learned that Bruckner's 5th has several different edits, and the CD I'd just bought had Bruckner's original version, with several longer passages I'd never heard before. Think of it like the director's cut of a film: new scenes not in the original theatrical release which make the whole movie feel like a new discovery.

To this date I've still not found the exact same recording I taped on the radio 20 years ago. Still hope to find it one day. In the meantime, the Deutsche Grammophon recording will have to do.

Posted by brian at 09:25 AM | Comments (2)

January 14, 2005

... but you said I could lie in the Sun!

Folks have been inquiring about Jesse. "Stabilized" is about the best I can describe it. He doesn't know he's sick, and since we've modified his diet, he's back to being mischievous and energetic. Only, the energy is illusory: while he seems to be feeling better, his heart isn't any better, nor are his lungs. So when he breathes, he wheezes. He's always snored when asleep, but now, well, he sounds more like a respirator machine or something... always has to make an effort to inhale.

He sure does love the sun.


Photo taken via Treo, today after lunch break. He was not too happy about being pulled away from rotisserie mode in the patch of sunlight on the floor, only to be put back in the sunless kitchen...

It's hard to say how long he will go on like this. Theoretically for quite a while, but the thing that gnaws away at our hopes is his history of sudden collapses, and our wondering when the next episode's going to happen.

Posted by brian at 02:45 PM | Comments (2)

January 12, 2005

106 Miles

Can't San Diego do this too? First, Scott starts a New Tech Meetup group in NYC, and now the Bay Area has "106 Miles" (one of my favorite movie quotes ever).

Come on San Diego! Time for a local 106 Miles group.

Posted by brian at 10:20 AM | Comments (1)

At the Gates of Mordor

Having a meeting on interoperable calendaring/scheduling technologies in Seattle is somewhat akin to a group of elves meeting at the very gates of Mordor. Microsoft, which through its Outlook/Exchange product line dominates the world in calendaring/scheduling software, is notably absent from the CalConnect consortium.

It took a while for me to realize that Oracle's here because they acquired "Corporate Time" (or CTime as we used to call it at MP3.com and later at Eazel). MeetingMaker's here. Two folks from Mozilla, a couple from Yahoo, and a bunch from various universities.

The first thing that struck me about CalConnect is that it doesn't have a RFC2445-compliant calendar online somewhere for this three-day meeting. There is a paper handout, but... (One would think, etc. . . . )

The second thing was that Macintosh PowerBook users are not the majority in this room. IBM Thinkpads, Toshibas, and DELLs rule here. The Mozilla folks have DELLs running Linux. But this is the first technology group I've been to in a while where an overwhelming sea of bright, beaming Apple logos isn't visible. I suppose this is a good thing. :-)

The third thing is that it's been a long time since I've been in a committee, with committee rules about when a decision can be made and when only a discussion can be had but no decision made. A group of people getting together, discussing issues, but not being able to make a decision and go with it: that's a bit difficult. I guess it's a bit like being in a committee at the United Nations. Things simple move at a slower pace. (The word "entmoot" comes to mind.)

Posted by brian at 06:21 AM | Comments (0)

January 11, 2005

NeXT Mini

So NeXT Computer, Inc. announces its new Mini computer. Great! It even comes with the Pages wordprocessor bundled!

The only thing missing: Lotus Improv! :-)

Posted by brian at 02:51 PM | Comments (1)

Taking the Plunge

Attending the CalConnect Roundtable II meeting at the University of Seattle today. We're meeting at the Waterfront Activities Center on the campus.


The waterfront at the Waterfront Activities Center

First notable thing about Seattle that I'd forgotten about: the sun rises a lot later up here than in La Jolla. 730am and it's still pre-dawn.

There's a great photo on the wall inside the meeting room: an old black & white picture depicting the 1925 Junior Class of the University of Washington. They're standing along the bridge that crosses the water that leads to Lake Washington. Look closely: someone's jumping from the bridge, while everyone else watches.

Pretty much sums up 2004, in terms of the startup life . . .

Posted by brian at 08:37 AM | Comments (2)

January 08, 2005

First Purchase Circles, now Parking Lot Indicators!

A couple years back here in the blog, I wrote about the Amazon Purchase Circles method of determining whether a publicly-traded company was focused on the business at hand, or dreaming of faraway places. The secret? What books was the company buying? If they were all business related, then I suggested a BUY rating for the company. If instead they ranged from "Harry Potter" to "What to Do When Your Boss Is a Jerk" to "Let's Go Tahiti!" then I'd issue a SELL.

Ross Mayfield has opened up a new group on Flickr called the "Parking Lot Indicatr" -- cameraphone photos of parking lots of publicly-traded companies. Who's at work? Parking lot full? Late at night? On weekends? BUY! Empty? SELL! Interestingly, Ross' first contribution to the group is Google's lot, and it's (surprisingly) nearly empty...

Posted by brian at 04:25 PM | Comments (0)

Netflix Friends, How About Netflix Neighbors?

Got an email recently from Netflix announcing the launch of Netflix Friends, a new service from Netflix.

From the first line of the email: "With Netflix Friends you can see what your friends are watching and share your movies with them" (emphasis added).

And then on their site, Netflix says in big text, "share movies with your Netflix Friends."

Ok, so I ought to be able to give my rentals to my friends when I'm done with them, and they ought to be able to give me theirs, right? After all, that's what sharing movies with friends really means, right?

In fact, I wish we could take it even further: how about Netflix Neighbors?

Imagine: you go to Netflix, and indicate that you are willing to participate in the Netflix Neighbors program. This means that you can view what other Netflix customers within N miles of you who have also enrolled in the program are currently renting -- what is currently shipped to those customers. If there are things you want to rent from the list, why wait until you return your rented DVDs to Netflix and then get your own copies? Why not just swap what you have with what your neighbor has?

Say I have Lawrence of Arabia and Beverly Hills Cop (just examples, okay?). Say someone right down the street from me is enrolled in the Netflix Neighbors program, and sees that someone in the neighborhood has Lawrence of Arabia. They go to the Netflix site, click on the link for the "local copy of Lawrence of Arabia", and send a message to that renter. So far, both parties' identities are hidden. When I get that message, that a Netflix Neighbor would like one of my rentals, I can reply to the message thru Netflix, and approve the request, at which point my identity (perhaps name and phone number) are revealed to the other requestor, and likewise, i get their name and phone number too. We call up, meet up, I hand over the DVD, and presto, the neighbor gets a copy without having to wait (how's that for movies on demand!) and I get to meet a neighbor I might not have met before (how's that for un-doing Bowling Alone?)

Sure, there are some technical details to work out (like notifying Netflix that I now have possession of another customer's rental). You could type in the barcode or something and that would enable the neighbor to get the next DVD in their own queue, and let Netflix be able to continuously track inventory. And yes, there's an honor system involved here, but hey. It'd still be fun, and it might just work.

And yes, this same thing might work really well at work: Netflix Co-workers (or better yet, Workflix)! ("Share your movies with your co-workers!") Just bring in your rentals, and someone at work takes possession of them and hopefully you can take possession of someone else's movies and Netflix saves money by cutting down on postage, customers are happier, and everybody wins.

Posted by brian at 11:32 AM | Comments (5)

January 06, 2005

Crossfire Canceled!

Crossfire will no longer be hurting America. There's an article in today's New York Times with the headline "CNN Will Cancel 'Crossfire' and Cut Ties to Commentator". The Commentator? Tucker Carlson! He's toast!

Jon Stewart must be elated.

Posted by brian at 08:25 AM | Comments (2)

January 05, 2005

It Ain't Over Until There's a Book Deal

It had to happen. The sorryeverybody.com website, launched shortly after Kerry conceded the election victory to Bush, is now coming out as a $14.95 book.

Posted by brian at 02:27 PM | Comments (0)

Elephant

Elephant. Pronunciation: 'e-l&-f&nt
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural elephants also elephant
Usage: often attributive
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French & Latin; Middle French olifant, from Latin elephantus, from Greek elephant-, elephas
1 : any of a family (Elephantidae, the elephant family) of thickset usually extremely large nearly hairless herbivorous mammals that have a snout elongated into a muscular trunk and two incisors in the upper jaw developed especially in the male into large ivory tusks and that include two living forms and various extinct relatives: as a : a tall large-eared mammal (Loxodonta africana) of tropical Africa -- called also African elephant b : a relatively small-eared mammal (Elephas maximus) of forests of southeastern Asia -- called also Asian elephant, Indian elephant
2 : an animal or fossil related to the elephants
3 : one that is uncommonly large or hard to manage
4 : an issue that is extremely obvious to a group of people, but which is very carefully not being discussed
5: a startup company that, while being right at the forefront of tech trends being batted around as "the next big thing" as defined by prestigious VCs, hasn't yet found the proper magical incantations that get those same VCs to stop yakkin' in their blogs and start writin' checks.

Posted by brian at 08:33 AM | Comments (0)

January 04, 2005

If Only Real Life Were Like This...

Posted by brian at 09:17 AM | Comments (0)

January 03, 2005

Universal Permanent Calendar

This idea, for a permanent, fixed calendar (with occasional "Newton" one-week-long months thrown in to keep things in sync) has about as much chance of succeeding as the folks depicted in that West Wing episode who pointed out to CJ that not only is the current Mercator-style projection of world maps all wrong (it heavily favors the northern hemisphere, and dramatically shrinks the real relative size of Africa and other southern-hemisphere regions), but it ought to be shown upside-down.

I'm thinking the realistic cost of implementing this new calendar system would be, oh, more than the cost of the Y2K efforts (remember them?).

In case you're curious, here's the so-called C&T Calendar in all its glory.

Posted by brian at 02:53 PM | Comments (0)

January 02, 2005

Taggle

I love all the analysis going on about the tags in flickr and del.icio.us. Here's one article that's particularly interesting, about "folksonomies."

I wonder . . . if more and more services in 2005 add user-generated tagging, will "federated tagging" be far behind? And if someone were to index all the tags from these various sites.... would the result be Taggle? Imagine: a service where you type in a keyword, and you get back all the hits that have that word as a tag. If Flickr, del.icio.us, and umpteen other sites cooperated, then an uber-tag-search service might just work . . .

Posted by brian at 07:48 PM | Comments (20)
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