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November 27th, 2009
02:21 am
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A brief visit to geek-land
I've mostly stopped being interested in technology as just technology - I've seen too many cycles, I guess. But once in a while it strikes how much things have progressed.

I went to an all-day meeting today, and after the meeting I went to get groceries. After the grocery store I went to a café next door for an espresso. I took out my laptop to jot down a few notes from the meeting, and that done went online to check mail. Doesn't sound like much, but though "going online" is just a click, what it actually means is having the laptop use bluetooth to connect to the cellphone in the pocket of my jacket that I threw on the chair next to me, and have the phone use the UMTS/3G network to reach the internet. Lots of wireless and mobile tech in play here.

Soon I was on Google wave, doing real-time conversation with a couple of friends on one wave, and editing up notes from the recent Copenhagen Wave Meetup on another, while also uploading a picture to facebook, etc. What was striking was how smooth all this was. The bluetooth / 3G combo had no trouble keeping up with live updates and pictures being posted to waves, and I had none of that "telegraph from the moon" sense of using the internet at too low speed. And of course none of this took a lot of hacking about - it just worked. But it did make me geek about it for a bit. The part I found striking was the dynamic, shared, realtime editing on Wave, and the fact that I could be part of that from a Café.

Well, I finished my coffee, went home to cook soup, and returned to just being a user again.

Current Location: 2000, DK
Current Music: Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band - I'm Here To Get My Baby Out Of Jail | Powered by Last.fm
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November 16th, 2009
02:24 am
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Airport service
I left Copenhagen for Portland (via Chicago) today. I went through the motions of check-in and security as usual, got some US cash from a bank at the airport, and headed for the SAS lounge - I had a couple of emails I wanted to do, and a document I had to send in paper mail. I wrote out my paper letter, asked put it in an envelope and addressed it. I had time for a coffee and then headed for the gate. At the exit of the lounge I wanted to ask where I could find a postbox to drop the letter, but as soon as the woman at the counter saw me holding it she offered to post it for me; I didn't even to use the stamp I had bought.

I headed for the gate, and I was one of the last passengers to show up. However, I was singled out for a random security check, so I had to step into a side room, where they ran my carry-on luggage through a scanner again, asked me to take out and show them every single piece of electronics (laptop, cellphone, camera, Kindle), and to turn each on and show it to be working (I always wonder in situations like that what happens if your camera is out of battery). They also went through my bag manually, going over every item.

They were quite thorough. They were also, however, very pleasant and kind. No drama at all, good atmosphere, bit of chit-chat. Most of the conversation was about my kindle. But of the women doing the check were very interested in the Kindle, so we had a nice talk about usability, how it works for long flights (wonderful), the selection of books (ho-hum), the selection of books in Danish (ha!), and the fact that Amazon wants you to sign over rights to your firstborn in return for use of the device. They had both heard about the latter and wanted to hear my view; they were clearly skeptical about the Kindle because of it, saying that they were waiting for other devices with better policy to come out. This is a really good sign - it's not just geeks not liking the amazon business model - and something Amazon needs to worry about if they want to stay in command of the market.

It's the 3rd time I've been taken out for random security check (not much, considering how much I travel), and all have been easygoing and pleasant. I remember once in Toronto, a smiling security officer looking at me as I was approaching the security check, saying with a grin "and you, Sir, will be my random security check for today" - before seeing any papers, and so before even knowing who I was.

Current Location: OHR, Chicago, IL
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02:22 am
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Dear airport designer(s)
Power socket. Lots. Really - it's not that hard.

Current Location: OHR, Chicago, IL
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November 5th, 2009
12:43 am
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The art of simple
Most people who've done programming, or math, know just how hard it is to achieve "simple". So when you see something that's simple and elegant, and even obvious, don't be fooled - getting there probably took a lot of work.

Not surprisingly I succumbed and got the "The Complete Fun House Sessions" (Stooges). And it's just striking how much work goes into really simple, no frills rock'n'roll. There's 7 CD's, 142 tracks, all of it takes of one of the 7 songs on the Fun House album (or studio talk). I've been having so much fun with this, listening to them work the songs over and over, modulating tempos, changing focus a bit, leaning a bit into a riff, easing off a bit here, etc.

There's this really simple garage rock song "Loose". It's a classic, a band leaning into a song and just letting it rip; a snarling guitar on an E G A progression, a steady bass line and drums propelled forward in sheer abandon. And Iggy pop singing deep lyrics such as "I feel free / to be dancing baby / I'll stick it / deep inside", and nothing much else. Simple? Sure - but no less than 32 takes to get there. At one point the sound engineer suggest they issue and albums of "22 versions of Loose". Little did he know that, one day they would.

Or how about "Down in the Street" - one of my favorite songs. I love how this powerful rocker is majestic and at the same time light and raw, and I love the way it morphs into something close to a jazz trio (on electro shock, possibly), winding down the song in a cool, relaxed swing. And more than anything I love the angry cat Ron Asheton seems to have loaded up in his guitar, and the bouncing bass riff that Scott Asheton use to hurl the song forward. And again - 16 takes, slowly evolving the song into the right forward, slowly getting to that relaxed, blissful simpleness.

There's inspiration here. There's a message that sometimes, trying again, trying harder is needed to get there - and a message that with effort, simple is possible.

Current Music: Stooges - Down in the Street (16 takes)
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November 4th, 2009
01:45 am
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Big stories, simple graphics
So, having seen this http://www.xkcd.com/657/ at the intarwebs (and had a good laugh at the "12 angry men" graph) I was reminded of this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Minard.png, which is of course an altogether different and frankly quite frightening graphic - but nevertheless the LoTR thing is along the lines.

From the first time I saw this I've found it startling how this visualization bring home the enormity of the thing, and so creates a highly emotional response (at least for me), despite being a "just the facts" thing itself.

Current Location: 2000 DK
Current Music: The Stooges - Dirt
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12:31 am
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Completism
"The Complete Fun House Sessions". 6 CDs. 30 (!) takes of Loose. I can't seriously be considering getting this, much less sit through it - can I?

Current Music: The Stooges - Gimme Danger
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November 1st, 2009
07:20 pm
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Home again
I finally made it back home. Mostly, it was an easy and relaxed journey - just a long one.

A340 - SASFlight from Beijing was on time; an SAS A340, maybe my favorite plane these days (no, I haven't been on the A380 yet). I got a good seat, front row, lots of leg-space. I settled in with the Kindle, and happily no-one told me to quit during take-off (or landing), so I got some reading in. After the meal (noodles w/spicy chicken, really good for an in-flight meal) I got out the laptop and did some off-line email. Got a good deal done before I tired of it. Did some more reading, but I started nodding, falling asleep, re-reading the last paragraph, etc. Put the Kindle away, dozed for some our. Don't think I slept much, just some of drifting along in a semi-sleep state. Woke up a few times, read some more, etc. They served us another hot meal, and then we were landing in Copenhagen.

CPH was in a particularly effective mode Friday evening; zipped through passport control, bags arrived quickly, and in no time I was heading home on the metro. Arrived home to find the kid having friends visiting; lego everywhere, lots whoops and cheers from in front of the TV where the Wii was in action. We settled in, the friends where picked up by parents, and we had a relaxing evening. I did a bit of laundry, told a few tales, and tucked the kid in late. Finished washing and changing sheets, and then my brain went full stop. Fell asleep on the couch, woke back up and went to bed leaving the kitchen a mess.

The kid woke me up Saturday at 7:30, and I was out of the bed and feeling awake and reading to go right away. By some act of mercy there was no jetlag at all to be felt. I baked bread, helped the kid with a Halloween costume, baked chocolate cupcakes for the expected avalanche of witches, skeletons and vampires, went to look for tiles for the bathroom we're rebuilding, did the great grocery hunt, etc. I spent the evening relaxing with the family - mostly reading while they were watching TV. Ended up going to bed rather late - turns out I've never read Mark Twain in English before; the Kindle makes it easy to make up for that.

It's good to be home

Current Location: 2000 DK
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October 30th, 2009
06:30 am
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Beijing airport big brother
There's internet at the Air China lounge in Beijing airport, and it's free and fairly responsive. Accessing stuff in the US or in Europe is not problem.

However, as so often here, they have the weirdest filters. Getting on the wifi gives you access to mail (smtp, imap, over ssl and no ssl), to IM, and so on. However, getting to port 80 (regular web) requires an additional password for the "web authorization centre". And not all websites are authorized. LJ is fine, ditto wordpress, but blogger is too dangerous. Same goes for twitter and facebook. I can get at both of those with iPhone apps, but no accessing them on the web. Weird stuff.

Current Location: Beijing airport
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05:54 am
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Going home
On my way home from Daejeon. It's quite a trek. Daejeon is a bit from Seoul, and there's no direct train connection to the Incheon airport. The most convenient option is a bus service that runs directly to the airport, and take anything from 2-3 hours depending on traffic. The bus is very comfortable, with seats like you'd find in 1st class on a US airline. No problem there, except I had a 10am flight out of Incheon, and to be safe and make time for queues at checking, security and what have you, I was recommended to get the 4:15am bus. Now, I'm usually a morning person, but getting up shortly after three is too early.

I shared the bus ride with my friend and collaborator Greg, and it's was good to get some extended time to talk through some projects, and also talk about private stuff. It was good to have some time together w/o a lot of people around and no formal setting.

Asiana 747I was at the airport in good time, had some breakfast and made it through all the usual airport hassles with plenty of time left; I ended up spending an hour and a bit at the Asiana lounge, getting some decent coffee and doing email. Incheon is like so many things in Korea - done just right. Build in large scale. They spend what it takes to do things well here, with a commitment to be the best. Pleasant, efficient, organized. My flight takes me through Beijing - no direct Seoul - Copenhagen flight available. The leg to PEK was a on a 747, it's been a while since I was last on one of those, so that was kinda neat. I slept through the flight, and definitely wanted the flight to have been longer when we arrived (Seoul is just 1.5h).

In Beijing I made it though the many layers of security and checks; Beijing has real transit, so one can get to connecting flights here without ever entering China or leaving the international section of the airport. There's still several layers of checks, though - you have to hand in forms about swine flu and your heath situation, to people wearing masks and gloves. Foreigners are contagious, I guess. Once through all that I did some shopping, getting some traditional Chinese clothes that the kid likes.

Beijing AirportI'm now in the Air China lounge in Beijing airport. It's really nice, good chairs, good selections of drink, fine green tea, and it's one of the few airport lounges that serve real food - and nice Chinese food at that. Only downside is that the otherwise impressive and beautiful new Beijing airport terminal building is one big thing, with lounges and shops and what have you all on various raised platforms, but with no walls. That makes for a spacious layout, but also means that there's a) constant background noise b) draft. This is a place to catch a cold w/o noticing; surely took a while before I realized i should be putting on an extra shirt (which, happily, I always carry in my carry on bag along with extra socks and other survival items for airline travel).

All in all, not doing too bad. I wish I'd had more time in Daejeon, and I'd do feel the effect of that 3am morning. I'll be OK, and I can sleep in a couple of hours when my flight to Copenhagen gets going.

Current Location: Beijing airport
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October 29th, 2009
08:42 am
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Hi again
Someone posted a comment to one of my old posts, and so I went here - and realized I haven't posted to LJ for a full year. Did FB and twitter really take over my life.

I'm currently in Daejeon, Korea - I travel as much as always. Daejeon is a wonderful city, bustling and lively and full of friendly people - and despite the density here's lots of trees and a sense of open air around. Best of all, people are really friendly and helpful, so walking around time is a real pleasure. Haven't had time to see much except for conference facilities, research labs, university campus, and hotel rooms. But I have managed to find time to explore the city a bit, just walking up and down streets, looking at houses and people and shops, going to a few cafés, etc.

The research facilities here are impressive, in lots of areas. Maybe most impressive of all is the will to work together and share, the willingness to invest, and the commitment to translate those investments into excellence. People here want to be the best, and they'll put in the effort - w/o arrogance or superiority. I like it here, a lot.

Current Location: Daejeon, Korea
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November 9th, 2008
03:46 pm
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Happy Birthday
Happy birthday, aquaeri.  Hope you had a great day, and that you're going into a wonderful year.  Sorry I couldn't drop by to try the cookies ;-)

Current Music: The Rolling Stones - Tumbling Dice | Powered by Last.fm

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November 4th, 2008
01:33 am
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Happy election days
I just want to wish all my friends in the US a happy election day - whichever way you cast your vote. Celebrating democracy is always a grand thing.

Current Location: 2000, Denmark
Current Music: Rolling Stones: Everybody Needs Somebody To Love

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November 2nd, 2008
02:39 am
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Happy Birthday
ailbhe. One of the big ones, too, if I'm not mistaken.

I hope you were properly celebrated and had a great day.

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October 13th, 2008
06:23 pm
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Happy Birthday!
...roguepuppet. Have a great day!

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October 9th, 2008
03:12 pm
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Language is a virus from outer space, part 763323
Go here. Read the text in the popup.

Totalitarian language if ever there was such a thing.

Current Location: 2770, Denmark
Current Music: Duke Ellington: Take the A Train
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September 30th, 2008
07:26 pm
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Error!
The sad Mac is still my favourite, by far. And, to tell the truth, I didn't find he list that amusing.

Current Location: Seattle, WA
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September 26th, 2008
01:43 am
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HEP joke of the day
I'm not always wild about the XKCD stuff, but at times they hit that geek humour just right.

Current Location: 2000, Denmark
Current Music: Duke Ellington: Royal Garden Blues
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September 24th, 2008
01:42 am
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Recipe for an evening of fun (?)
I went to the supermarket today, to pick up a few things for dinner. Ahead of me in the check-out line was a woman, alone, about my age. Her cart held two packs of chips, two six-packs Carlsberg, and a Sony PS2, nothing else.

Current Location: 2000, Denmark
Current Music: Duke Ellington: Bend One
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September 23rd, 2008
04:30 pm
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Bliss
Basin Street Blues, Duke, Hodges, Sweets. I'm not a religious person by a long shot, but damn, this is close. This stuff, I'm telling ya, time just drift away, with a big, silly smile on my face.

Current Location: 2770, Denmark
Current Music: Ellington & Hodges: Big Shoe
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11:16 am
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Celebrate Bisexuality Day
It's International Celebrate Bisexuality Day today.

I'm a busy bee (and bi), so no time for parties for me this time. But I think I'll open a bottle of good port tonight and bring a toast to all the great people of the local bi group; they've done wonders this past year. Good job, boys and girls!

Current Location: 2770, Denmark
Current Music: Bob Dylan: I and I
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02:34 am
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New toy?
I'm being told it's time for a new laptop - and, true, the old one is getting to that risky age. It's not that old, but I travel a lot, and it really wear 'em out.

Anyway - I was asked if I want another small-small Lenovo to run Ubuntu on, or if I'm joining to MacBook Air crowd. Ugh. I'm stumped. I don't even know where to start on a decision. The Air is way cool, and I like the iMac my live-in partner has. But then, the sense of lock-in might very well drive me mad. I guess installing VMware fusion helps, but still.

Hmpf.

Current Location: 2000, Denmark
Current Music: Cowboy Junkies: I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry
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02:30 am
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10 days?
Oh my - where did those 10 days go? Looks like my LJ presence is becoming very erratic.

Current Location: 2000, Denmark
Current Music: Cowboy Junkies: Blue Moon
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September 12th, 2008
09:21 am
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Riga
I'm in Riga (Latvia) for a brief visit. This morning I walked from my hotel to the workshop venue, through the central part of town, down the Raina Bulvaris. It was beutifully sunny, and the mood seemed relaxed, the streets not too crowded. I walked past the old (and nicely renovated buildings), the university, the opera, imposing government offices, and past the huge and quite imposing WWII memorial. The Raina Bulvaris runs along a park, nicely kept with large trees and a bit of landscaping. It's a very nice spot.

It feels like fall here - crip air with a bit of a bite. We have beautiful, fresh, sunny fall days like this at home, too. I like days like this a lot. Riga is just about due east from Copenhagen, so I found it interesting that it's fall here when we're still having summer days at home.

I've been staying here in one of these international business hotels, hotel that look the same in Hamburg, Houston, and Riga. From inside the hotel room there's few clues to where in the world you are. I'm not a fan of hotels like this, but in this part of the world it seems there's a choice between this or (cheap) East Bloc hotels that just have too many things not working. Bland as it may be, the hotel was funcitonal, with really good (and free) wifi etc.

Current Location: Riga, Latvia
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September 10th, 2008
03:22 pm
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Sunday the kid aked me to play LEGO Indiana Jones on the Wii with her.  I was reluctant - I'm not much into gaming - but, she explained that the game really needed two players, so she really needed me to play with her.  And how can a father say no to that?

To my surprise it was a lot of fun.  The merging of LEGO, the Indiana Jones universe, puzzle-based action game, and a highly interactive console proved to be just right. What's more, this game is truly meant to multiplayer gaming.  It's a collaborative game where you work together solving puzzles, fighting the bad guys, etc.   Playing together worked really well, controlling independent game characters and at the same time working together. 

It was interesting to see the difference in approach.  The kid was squarely focused on progressing the game - getting to the next level - not giving a hoot about collecting points, artifacts, or solving side riddles.  She was focused on the story and moving on, where I would be much more inclined to get each level right before moving on.  Her style certainly led to a brisk, fast-paced game, but it did leave me at times with a sense of "hey, we missed that, what about that, I wanna know what that was, etc". 

We ended up playing for three hours straight, to the point where I suddenly realized "oh, my, dinner!" and had to rush to cook - and even then we had dinner later. I suspect we'll be doing more of that.

Current Location: 2770, Denmark
Current Music: The Band: The Shape I'm In
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11:25 am
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Time to take it easy
This week I've taken delivery of
  • 3 novels
  • 1 travelogue
  • 1 collection of short stories
  • 1 book of poetry
  • 2 extended essays / debate books
  • 3 job-related books (that I ordered, not stuff that was thrown at me)
Some time (years?) back I promised myself not to let my book buying run ahead of my reading.  Sounds like this is a good week to remind myself of that promise.

Current Location: 2770, Denmark
Current Music: The Band: Mystery Train
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