Happy Holidays!

It’s Christmas day, and I’m down in the Bay area (Palo Alto to be precise, at my cousin’s house). Jessica flew down with a friend, and convinced me to come down as well, and since Uri’d never been here before, he joined me on my drive down. We’ve done a few touristy things, but since our budget is fairly tight, mostly we’ve been just exploring the area. We spent a day in San Francisco, which was arguably the rainiest day we’ve had the entire time we’ve been here (alas!), but we still had fun and got to explore a bit (we’ve done both the Golden Gate and Bay bridges… also did the crooked road). We also took a day and drove down to Santa Cruz via Half Moon Bay and Route 1 — really gorgeous drive, and surprisingly light traffic.

I’ll write a more involved post later, but I did want to wish everyone some happy holidays, and that we’ll be back around the 29th!

LiveBlog: CyborgCamp

9:43am: Currently in the Forum at Cubespace, waiting for opening remarks on CyborgCamp, Amber Case (@caseorganic appears to be MC’ing.

9:50am: there are several extras for following what’s happening with CyborgCamp (#cyborgcamp): CyborgCamp Backchan.nl, CyborgCamp LiveStream, Twitter Tracking.

Should definitely check out the sponsors at CyborgCamp.com.

10:00am: Still going through sponsors, each is getting a chance to get up and sort of give their spiel as to what they do. I’ve yet to see any that aren’t worth checking out.

Explanation of an unconference — a mixture of established presentations, and blocks of time where you can create breakout sessions — if you have something you want to discuss or present, just put it on a card, put it on the grid. The point is to make these conferences to work for you. There is no commitment as an attendee — go where you’re finding value; if something isn’t what you wanted, go somewhere else.

10:12am: Okay, starting to organize the unconferences and meeting back here in 30.
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“Icky Speech”

Neil Gaiman expounds quite clearly on why even “icky” speech needs to be protected. This is in response to a comment regarding the Handley case, where a Manga collector is being prosecuted for owning obscene materials. Something I would add to the dialogue personally is a favorite H.L. Mencken quote:

The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all. (H.L. Mencken)


So, for about a year and a half now, I’ve been playing an online nation simulation game called CyberNations. I’ve been meaning to mention it for a while now. It’s a Persistent Browser Based Game (PBBG) that I was introduced to by Snikt and Co., and I’ve been lassoed into being the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the UberCon Alliance for about a year now (hopefully someone else will actually run against me in the election come December/January). If anyone is interested in trying out a nation simulation game (usually takes up maybe 5 minutes a day, tops — it’s only when you start getting political and into the metagame that it really starts to suck up your time), I’d definitely recommend checking it out.

If you do start a nation, ping me in game, and I’ll see about helping get you set up and running. The UberCon Alliance is a pretty peaceful place, we do what we can to keep our heads down and other alliances friendly with us, so we’ve thankfully not had a skirmish with another alliance in my tenure as MoFA, and we aim to keep it that way.


NDAs for the real world: FriendDA.

Key element to it:

I possess a bright idea that I am choosing to disclose to you, The Advisor, with the mutual understanding that you are my friend and that you will not screw me.

The MacBook Update

As I’m sure many are aware, Apple updated their laptop line today. There are some interesting technological advances going on, but (and their stock fluctuations today can attest) there seems to be a large backlash against several changes they made to their lineup — some justifiable, some spurious. Let’s look at the spurious complaints first:

  • “There’s no DVI port!” — and were you making the same complaint when DVI started to supersede VGA? Let’s be objective about this: DisplayPort is a VESA-certified industry standard meant specifically to address the needs of the computing market, in the same way that HDMI is meant to address the consumer electronics market. There are adapters already in existence to convert from DisplayPort to DVI (or even VGA) and back again. I know it’s hard when new standards come out, but you need to recognize that they’re coming out because what we have is no longer suitable for moving forward. HDMI is a marked improvement over Component. Well, DisplayPort is a marked improvement over DVI.
  • “There’s no button on the trackpad!” — anyone who has been paying attention could see this coming — look at the iPhone and iPod Touch and tell me you couldn’t foresee virtualized buttons coming. There are some complaints that they hate “tap-to-click,” and I can certainly concede that, but from looking at hands-on reports of the new setup, the system is designed in such a way that your muscle memory to hit the button with your thumb will still work in exactly the same fashion. The current button on the trackpads drops a millimeter, maybe two — you are in effect already “tapping” the button. The short of it is that by going to a virtualized solution, it becomes easier to adapt the trackpad to specific needs and solutions. I’m certain I can’t be the only who sees this.


There are definitely some very real gripes to be had, however:

  • “The black keyboard and black bezel are ugly.” — yes, I’m counting this as a real gripe. While from the exterior, the new laptops are sexy, when you open them up, the result a step backward; it is reminiscent of several offerings by Sony, Acer, even HP. Some are heralding it as a return to the Powerbook Titanium design philosophy, but I don’t really see that as a good thing. Why go back, when they clearly had so many options to move forward? Their external keyboards use a white on silver color scheme that would be markedly less jarring, let alone going with a silver-silver like they did with prior MacBook Pros. I consider this a valid complaint because part of what gets people to buy a Mac instead of a PC isn’t just the OS, it’s the hardware. The more it looks like everyone else’s offerings, the less reason there is to purchase the (more expensive) Mac option. Black on silver does not look good, I’m sorry. If they were going to go with the black bezel and black keyboard, in my opinion they should have gone with a black body. Either anodized or powder-coated black aluminum would still qualify for their EPEAT Gold rating, and yet would overall be more aesthetically unified.
  • “No firewire in the MacBooks!” — completely agreed. I don’t know what the hell Apple was thinking. Adding a FireWire 800 port would not have been difficult, even in the smaller enclosure, and yet by doing so, there would be a wealth of devices that would become available, including daisy chained hard drives and their own Target Disk Mode. Yes, that’s right, they’ve removed a technology that makes it easier to buy more of their products (by easing the process of migration). I understand the desire to further delineate between the MacBook and the MacBook Pro, but this is a grievous oversight.
  • “The dual graphics cards are neat, but can only use one or the other!” — I’m on the fence as to whether this is a valid or invalid complaint. My suspicion is that when 10.6 rolls out and OpenCL and Grand Central becomes more of a reality, we’ll start seeing the ability to prioritize processes and send some to one card, and others to another. If not Apple, then a third party developer. Given that nVidia has gone on record saying they’re supporting OpenCL, I think this is a reasonable prognostication. In the meantime, however, it’s just a “shiny-shiny” to give the marketers something to chew on. I really don’t care about the difference between a 4 hour and a 5 hour battery life — more often than not, if I’m in one place for that long, I’m able to plug in somewhere. So why not save the space in the laptop and just do the high end graphics card? (Of course, I consider this yet another reason to believe that there WILL be communication across the two cards in the future.)


I’m still very interested in getting a new MacBook Pro, as my current machine is starting to get long in the tooth and showing its age. Once I have a job that I can justify the expense, I imagine I’ll be getting one of the new machines, but if you’re in the generation immediately prior, I’d be hard pressed to encourage an upgrade. Honestly, a part of me (as lustful for a new machine as I am) wants to wait and see if they start offering a gun-metal-black iteration in 6 months.

NaNoWriMo 2008

It’s coming up on November, which means it’s that time again… National Novel Writing Month! A ragtag marathon of writers trying to get 50,000 words written down inside of 30 days. I’ve participated a few times in the past, but never completed it, a fact I plan to change this year!

Of course, first I need to think of what the hell I plan to write about.

In the meantime, let me share some NaNoWriMo love for you all:

Our PDX Network has a great article up currently encouraging folks to particpate. Likewise, the lovely CamiKaos has an excellent piece about getting back in the writing saddle again after completing NaNoWriMo last year. So, come one come all, let us ride our keyboards and notebooks into the sunset next month!

On Seattle

Thursday night, Jessica and I packed our bags and wandered up to Seattle. It’d been a while since we’d taken a trip, and we had a great excuse to go: Neil Gaiman was going to be doing a reading for his new book, The Graveyard Book up there, but wasn’t going to be visiting Portland at all for this tour. So we made a trip of it, and stayed with my friend Anna for two nights, which was good.

Friday was spent being tourists in Seattle — we ate at Julia’s on Wallingford, swung by the Apple Store and the University Bookstore (the folks hosting the reading, so as to pick up the vouchers for the reading), and then went and checked out the Anachrotechnofetishism exhibit at 826 National chapter, the Greenwood Space Travel Supply Co. Definitely a nifty little store with lots of stuff to play with and geek out over. Despite wanting my very own raygun, I went with a more practical option this time around and picked up a t-shirt. I am incredibly jealous that programs like this exist and wish they’d been around (and nearby!) when I was growing up.

After dropping off Anna (and playing with Gabe, who is Anna’s rockin’ jack russel/chihuahua puppy), we hung out with Jessica’s friend Ira for a little bit, and then wandered over to the reading.

I’ve got to say, Neil is a hell of a charming guy. He read chapter four of The Graveyard Book to the audience (around 850 people all told), shifting his voice appropriately for different characters in all the right ways and spots to make it a really engaging reading — it’s like the entire audience was 5 again, and he was reading to us before bed. Afterward, we had a brief intermission to get up and stretch, and then he showed us footage from the upcoming Coraline movie (comes out this February), though he did make us promise not to put any video of the footage up til at least after the tour is over next week, as a favor to him (did I mention that he’s a hell of a charming guy?). It’s looking fantastic, and the folks at Laika should be damned proud of the project.

After the preview footage, there was a Q&A session with Neil that ran for about 45 minutes to an hour, so the reading in total took about 2.5 hours. One of the questions actually was about the “new” format compared to the old autograph lines… the short answer is that the old system involved maybe thirty minutes to an hour reading AND Q&A, followed by 3-6 hours of standing in line to shuffle past Neil and get a signature. It is a bit more impersonal, perhaps, to not get that individual face to face time, but in the end it makes for a happier overall experience to do it in this new format. Neil’s also got a great excuse, since his finger is broken and this way he could do all the signing at his own pace. Definitely well worth the time and effort to head up to Seattle for. (As an aside, it’s sort of telling that when I looked around the audience of folks who would ostensibly be “my kind of people”, I didn’t recognize a single person, despite having lived in Seattle for three years, whereas I’ve been in Portland for 6 months and already often randomly run into people all over the place. Portland FTW!)

After the talk, we grabbed Anna and headed over to 13 Coins, which is a local chain of 5 star 24 hour restaurants… huge, tall leather bound booths, and one of the best filet mignon’s I’ve had — it just sort of dissolved upon hitting my tongue. SO good.

Got up this morning, whereupon Anna made us breakfast, we played with Gabe a bit more, and then we took off for parts south — it would have been nice to make it a longer trip, but Jessica is volunteering for Fright Town, and had to get back for that. Definitely a nice trip, and for those of you in Seattle that I didn’t get to see, hopefully I’ll make it back up sometime soon!