Saturday, October 15, 2005

I just bought the soundtrack to "No Direction Home" Martin Scorsese's new documentary about Bob Dylan. Anne and I watched the documentary on PBS and found it funny, insightful and amazing. The unfolding of Bob Dylan's life from a small town in Minneapolis to the voice of post WWII youth is incredible. Dylan says early in the film, "I wasn’t born where I was supposed to be so I've been trying to find my way back home." It is an amazing story of transformation and Scorsese does a masterful job curating great archival footage into a portrait of Dylan’s early years.

Bob Dylan's own comments are brief and in keeping with his cynical approach to the media throughout his career. Lucky for us, a close friend of Dylan seems to have convinced him that he needs to start talking because his life and music are too important for him to remain silent. Sharing his feelings comes hard to Dylan. This leads to some of the humorous moments in the film… whether it is being difficult with the press or, more recently, when he starts to own up to being cryptic.

It seems as though throughout his life, his only consistent effort to promote his ever-changing mystique was to not promote it and not answer questions about it. In some of Dylan's interviews he acts like an adolescent interacting with his parents… saying as little as possible, making faces, not even agreeing with them when they happen to agree. The closest he comes is a slight smirk as if to say, "I know you’ve got a point, I know I’m being difficult but I’m still not going to meet you half way." Somehow, over time, this becomes an appropriate response to the many fans and media that confront him about the deeper meaning of his lyrics. He consistently responds that they are just songs and he a simple "song and dance man".

Early in the documentary, Dylan indicates that although he was enrolled at the University of Minnesota, he didn’t attend classes. Instead, he spent his time going to clubs and studying every piece of folk music he could get his hands on. Dylan even subtly admits to stealing a bunch of records from a casual friend. Bob Dylan became a student of music and got his bachelors, masters and PHD from the school of Woody Guthrie and many others. He studied the masters, copied them, thanked them, and then moved on to become "Dylan" a singer and songwriter like no other. It is an amazing story of both the poet and cultural icon. The soundtrack and DVD are worth a close listen.

Friday, October 14, 2005

I was reading the newspaper this morning. As I turned to the last page of the section and started reading a story about the war in Iraq, this is what I saw. The image is the result of the Macy's underwear ad on the back "bleeding" through to the image of the Iraqi boy on the front. While it is unplanned, it doesn't seem completely random. It seems representative of the mix of commercial and media images we see everyday in the US. Its all a competition for our attention and I think too often, the commercial world wins. Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 10, 2005

Dining Alfresco

Californians love to dine outside. It makes total sense in Southern CA but it can be a bit of a stretch here in San Francisco. This is a shot of the new Cafe @ the Beach Chalet at Ocean Beach. Its a bit like a small-scale version of the Bryant Park Cafe behind the Public Library in NYC. The interior is casual but well designed and the cafe opens up onto the yard behand the chalet. Service was very slow but had it been warm, we wouldn't have minded. But we had biked there in shorts and as the sun ducked behind the building, it started to feel more like the Ski Chalet.

Like many other SF restaurants, they roll out the portable heaters as the sun goes down which softens the chill slightly. The cold was total deja-vu since we had dined outside just the night before at the wedding of a good friend in Napa. The location and table settings were absolutely beautiful but as the sun went down, the chill came. As the night wore on, the men got more dressy and the women donned shawls if the had them. A few who were more prepared walked around in evening dresses with serious winter coats over the top. I guess it is one of our time-honored traditions... like watching 4th of July Fireworks through the fog. Beautiful in their own way (just make sure you're properly dressed).

Monday, October 03, 2005

A view of Tomales Bay from a cottage in Inverness, CA. Point Reyes has become one of our favorite places in California. It is a unique place in so many ways. In the photo above the far shore is protected Marin County ranch land. Tomales Bay is a pristine waterway restricted mostly to day sailors and kayaks. Most of Point Reyes itself was designated a National Seashore Park in the 1960's. The area offers great hiking, kayaking, camping and an easy escape from the city. We are always surprised at how uncrowded it is given that it is just over an hour from San Francisco. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Tomales Point on Pt. Reyes

This is the very Northern tip of Point Reyes. Its at the end of the McClures Ranch to Tomales Point trail... a beautiful five mile hike. Since the entire hike was shrouded in fog, it wasn't until we descended the final bluff that we saw that we were surrounded on three sides by pounding surf... the Pacific Ocean on one side and Tomales Bay on the other. The waves where the two bodies of water meet are big and loud. It was an amazing sight given how tranquil it was on the hike out.

We passed a small herd of tule elk along the way. Since they were pratically standing on the trail, we were hesitant to pass them. We decided to sit and watch them for awhile. After about 10 minutes, a noisy group of hikers came along and scared the elk away. We thought it was ironic that the noisy hikers turned out to be from the Sierra Club. But we were also happy that the elk had moved far enough away for us to continue the hike. The whole hike was serene in the fog but I'm guessing the views are awesome on a sunny day so we'll have to do it again.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Weird... I saw this advertised in the San Francisco Chronicle today and just thought it was strange. The description of the scent reads like a catalog of stuff that would get caught in the Hummer's tire-treads (assuming your average Hummer owner ever takes it off-road). Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 29, 2005

This is a new product called the Flypen. Although its being marketed as a toy, it does some pretty interesting things. You can write 1 letter commands like "S" for schedule and then write the details and it will remember them for you. You can also draw a keyboard and drums. Clicking on the instruments makes the sounds play from the pen's built-in speaker. It seems at least as sophisticated as the i-Pen or Logitech's IO Pen which require's use of Anoto's special paper. Posted by Picasa

Fillmore St Ski Jump

Just snapped this at the Icer-sponsored ski jump on the Fillmore St. Hill in San Francisco. The delays and public outcry of local residents seems to have only fueled interest in the event. Even though it took place mid-day on a Thursday, attendance seems to be higher than for the SF Grand Prix bike race. Slow snow and a possibly poorly designed take-off area made for some nasty wipe outs at the start of the event. One guy landed an left his skis where he landed and just kept going. This guy was the first to clear the lip where Fillmore meets Vallejo. Definitely made for some exciting moments.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Carneros Inn, Napa

Just got back from an offsite meeting that was held at the Carneros Inn in Napa, CA. Amazing setting... especially this view of the Napa Valley first thing in the morning. Each room is simple, small but well appointed individual cottage. The architecture is a well executed blend of agricultural and industrial... a clear reference to the less chic surroundings of Carneros as compared to central Napa. They don't promote it but much of the inn was built using prefab architecture.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Nintendo's new Revolution Controller

Interesting article on Nintendo's new Revolution controller. It uses gyroscopic control for things like racing games or sword fights. It can also be used as either a vertical remote control or held horizontally in 2 hands as a traditional game controller. It will be interesting to see how the gyroscopic function is received. Its been tried before with limited success but physical gaming is a big trend as Dance Dance Revolution and PlayStation's EyeToy have shown.


In my ongoing series of city views on-the-run... here's Chicago from a taxi stand. You get a bit of Mies in the foreground, followed by a piece of the Chicago Tribune building with just a glimpse of the Hancock building in the distance. I was there for all of 14 hours but I'm hoping to be making longer trips in the future.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Old-school Blog

Just setting my blog up for mobile blogging. I shot this telephone pole in San Francisco the first day I got my Sidekick. I thought the archeology of past messages was kind of cool looking.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Bush’s Perfect Storm

I think it is ironic that Hurricane Katrina, a random natural disaster would shed so much light on Bush’s leadership as a president. At first, the problems on the Gulf Coast all seemed to be due to Hurricane Katrina’s wrath. But in many ways, it was careful and deliberate planning that caused the damage and destruction. The writing has been on the wall for New Orleans and the Gulf Coast for this type of event. There have been numerous projections and warnings issued by state, local and federal officials. There was even a simulation, done quite recently and funded by FEMA. The drill predicted almost everything we are now seeing on the ground. Everything except the problems created by FEMA and the current administration.

George Bush stated during his first presidential campaign that Natural Disasters test the mettle of a leader. You would think that having said this that he would have worked hard to avoid any potential problems in dealing with one. But natural disasters of this scale have a way of revealing the impact of decisions made over years, not just those made in the immediate aftermath. Perhaps the most monumental of these was the decision to install Michael Brown as the head of FEMA. George Bush demands loyalty, respects loyalty and rewards loyalty. Hopefully, it was loyalty that got Michael Brown his job because it certainly wasn’t his experience managing natural disasters. Bush’s loyalty priority means that Brown was put in place over many other qualified people. This had little impact as long as the agency wasn’t needed but problems became strikingly clear when the time came for strong and decisive leadership.

FEMA’s response to Katrina is even more of an issue given all the changes George Bush has put in place in the aftermath of 9/11. The creation of the Department of Homeland Security and moving FEMA under it was done under the pretense of making the country safer in the face of natural and man-made disasters. Katrina was the fist big test of the effectiveness of these changes and from most accounts things are not better.

These are possibly the most dramatic examples of Bush’s “mettle” but there are more. Along with the predictions of the Gulf Coast’s vulnerability came numerous requests from the Army Corp of Engineers for a budget to upgrade the levees surrounding New Orleans. But Bush delayed the approvals and cut the budgets for these projects. The former head of the Army Corp of Engineers was forced out by Bush’s administration after he openly criticized the budget cuts. One of the key roles of National Guard troops is to help restore order in times of natural disasters. But many of Louisiana and Mississippi’s National Guard Troops were busy over in Iraq. Some have been recalled but as with almost everything else, it may be too little, too late.

Loyalty can be a double-edged sword. Its an effective weapon in building and keeping a strong team. But if honesty is seen as a lack of loyalty it can have the exact opposite effect. In this scenario, those that are too honest are forced out and replaced by more “loyal” but less experienced candidates. Eventually you end up with an army of yes men. Isn’t this what happened to Colin Powell?

Hurricane Katrina has definitely tested the mettle of President Bush. It is ironic that something so random and “out of our control” could be such a clear indicator of Bush’s careful and deliberate plan. But that is exactly what it has done. I only hope that those most affected by his decisions will keep this in mind the next time they are casting a vote. Blind loyalty can be a fatal flaw in citizens too.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Impeachment… Bush vs. Clinton

Congressman John Conyer’s efforts to investigate Bush’s run-up to the Iraq War has got me thinking about which acts the US government is willing to prosecute and which it is willing to ignore. There are not many things about our government that get me angry. For the most part, I understand that governments, like most organizations are political. That political maneuvering delays, diverts and derails some issues from a logical course of action is to be expected. However, what does make me mad is having one side so powerful that they are able to prosecute the misdemeanors of another party while escaping all legal attention for serious crimes of their own. This is exactly what seems to be happening with George Bush and Bill Clinton.

Bill Clinton was impeached for adultery. Conservative Republicans will try to tell you that he was impeached for lying under oath (how hard would it be to prove that George Bush has lied to us about any number of issues). The simple truth is that Clinton committed adultery. Most of us, if caught having an affair, would first try to hide the truth. How many people have an affair and then come right home and tell their spouse about it? Congress had many options for indicating their disapproval of President Clinton’s behavior… censure being just one of them. But the Republicans chose to go the impeachment route. Impeachment for having sex that was perfectly legal albeit morally reprehensible.

As the facts are now making clear, George Bush made the decision to go to war with a sovereign nation and then fixed the intelligence to justify his decision. Recent facts such as the release of the Downing Street Memo make it clear that his decision to go to war predates his step-by-step reasoning before Congress and the United Nations. The Iraq War has resulted in at least 25,000 Iraqi civilian casualties and over 1700 American military casualties. The prewar intelligence used to justify the war has been shown to be incorrect and inflated. It would seem that, at the very least, an investigation is called for.

It could be argued that Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinski resulted in victims. Hillary Clinton would probably top the list but it might also include, Chelsea Clinton, Monica, Linda Tripp, and maybe even Bill himself. But that’s 5 victims and no fatalities. For this we sought impeachment. On the other hand, Bush’s little experiment to install democracy in the Middle East has resulted in many fatalities, and skirted Constitutional procedures regarding the decision to go to war. It seems to me that if you asked an objective group of people which case was grounds for impeachment the decision would be obvious and not the one that history has thus far followed.

What Bush has done is serious. Many innocent people are dead and it will likely take decades to restore faith in American foreign policy. It seems to me that, in light of the current facts, investigating the legality of what the Bush Administration did is the minimum that should be done. I’m certain that any effort in this direction would not result in an impeachment. Bush’s crafty bunch of sympathizers will find a way out or Congress will simply drop the ball out of fear of future retribution. But I know this, if Bush is not even accused of wrongdoing by Congress when Clinton was impeached, that there is something seriously wrong with our government.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

What if?

Republican Strategy as Fast Food Diet
What if the Republicans' strategy was something like this... Get control of Washington (the senate, White House, etc.) and stay there as long as possible. While there, reduce taxes, raise spending and balloon the deficit. Ignore international relations by making decisions that are popular domestically but extremely unpopular in the international community. Do this while knowing they are not good strategies for the long haul but make for easy political gain now. Then, every so often, know that the Democrats will regain control. The Democrats, being the responsible parent, will then make unpopular but necessary adjustments like raising taxes, reducing the federal deficit and taking a global view in international policy.

After a few years, the Republicans will regain control with empty proposals. This will return America to it's fast-food diet of lower taxes, higher deficits and self-centered international policy. The strategy requires the Republicans to periodically lose control but they would always be the popular guys working for the concerns of the regular (albeit misinformed) American. Under this strategy, the Democrats would be forced to become the strict parents, the ones making the un-popular but necessary decisions. Secretly, the Republicans would be happy to have the adjustments the Democrats provide. They know that their own policies, if left unchecked, would bankrupt the country. Publicly they would bitch and moan so that once the necessary adjustments are made, they could rush back into office with more tasty promises full of empty calories.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Hiking Pinnacles
Anne and I spent last weekend at Pinnacles National Monument near Soledad, CA. Definitely deserves more traffic than it seems to get but we were happy to have the peace and serenity. The rock formations are not as dramatic as Yosemite but they are great given their proximity to the Bay Area. There are 2 trails that take you through caves. They were formed over time by rockslides into the valley so technically they’re not caves. But they make for a great little hike, climb and crawl adventure. Both get quite dark in the middle so flashlights are required. The hike to the top also offers a number of loops and diversions that can keep you busy for an afternoon. Lots of great rock perches that make for great lunch spots overlooking the surrounding valleys. We also stayed at the Inn at the Pinnacles, a B&B 3 miles from the West entrance to the park. The B&B is surrounded by vineyards and has some nice views of the valley and hills. The owners are very nice. The only down side is that there is not much in the way of culinary adventures in the area. To compensate, the owners outfitted every room with a fridge and outdoor grill so you can bring your own food and cook. If you want to sample the local wines, the owners will sell you one or let you sample it for free at the daily wine & cheese hour. The B&B and the Park are an easy 2 – 3 hour drive from San Francisco. We’ll definitely be going back. There is a private camping ground near the East entrance so maybe we’ll try that next time.Posted by Hello

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

I recently went kayaking in Richardson Bay between Sausalito and Tiburon. It was a pretty paddle through marinas and moored sailboats with a view of the San Francisco skyline. It was more urban than my normal jaunts in Tomales Bay but serene in a different way.

I rented a fiberglass Necky kayak for the first time. The model was designed for slightly rough seas. It was most stable when it was leaning just off-center... either leaning into an approaching wave or onto one that just passed. Sailboats are designed the same way. They are more stable in a stiff wind then they are upright. Not knowing this (they explained it all to me when I got back) I went about trying to keep the boat balanced on center. The result of my efforts was that the smallest wave or gust would push me off center making me feel like I was about to tip. As I was paddling, I was constantly shifting my hips to keep as centered as possible... a losing battle given the kayak's hull design. I paddled a bit in the shallows near the beach to try to get comfortable. As I finally ventured out into the Bay, I was immediately hit broadside with a strong gust blowing what little confidence I had right out of me. I continued to paddle out with short, light, cautious strokes... clearly not as committed as the direction of my kayak. The uneasy feelings continued and I contemplated bringing the boat back. I looped back into a marina where the water went calm again. After calming myself, I decided to head out for the Sausalito houseboats, my intended destination.

All of this made me think about what many solo adventurers must think as they are leaving civilization behind and hiking, paddling or sailing into the wilds beyond. In particular, it reminded me of a lecture by Ben Saunders that I saw at this year's TED Conference. Ben cross-country skied from Russia to Canada via the North Pole. He mentioned that he had those feelings as his family and support teams took off in their helicopters after dropping him off in the already remote reaches of Northern Russia. Later, he realized that he was the only person in an area the size of the United States. I imagine that this is only a cool thought to have after you have finished the journey and are telling stories at some pub surrounded by friends. In the moment, they can only generate fear and uncertainty if anything goes wrong. He has a cool website with some great photos of his journey and links to other outdoor adventurers. His most frustrating day was when he skied 14 hours across drifting ice only to realize at the end of the day that he was almost 3 miles behind where he started. Anyone who has had any kind of solo back-country experience has probably contemplated the feeling of being truly alone...…but to be alone at the North Pole, that's amazing.

So, at the risk of sounding like I'm equating my experience in Sausalito with Saunder's experience in the Arctic I'll return to my story. The feeling that I was about to tip over continued for the majority of my trip. It was only on the way back that I started to get comfortable in the slight lean the kayak was designed for. I made it to the Sausalito Houseboats and had several close encounters with seals as I passed their haul-out spot. My tension was ultimately relieved in an encounter I had with a sea lion and sea bird. As I was drifting towards a sea lion in front of me, he dove under. Just as I reached the still-swirling eddies created by his dive, a sea bird came up in the same spot directly under my bow. My heart skipped a beat because I thought it was the sea lion. But I wasn't half as scared as the sea bird as he tried to figure out what my kayak was and then noticed that it was moving. It's moments like that when you realize that even when we city slickers are scared being out in nature that the vast majority of wildlife is more scared of us (often for good reason). The moment made me laugh, forget the tippiness of the kayak and at peace in the moment. Posted by Hello

Friday, April 08, 2005

Went to the opening of the Extreme Textiles Exhibit last night at the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York. This is an amazing exhibit! There is something for everyone here... sci fi, fashion, cool factor and hi-tech. There is some amazing work being done around the world with fabrics. I heard that Matilda McQuaid, the curator had been thinking and planning the exhibit for more than a decade. She did an amazing job. The exhibit features a broad range of applications including industrial, sports, space and military fabrics. Many have samples that you can touch and interact with... a rarity in the museum world. Great job Cooper Hewitt! Posted by Hello

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Went to the Ashes and Snow exhibit today at Pier 54 in New York. It is definitely an interesting experience perhaps most of all because of the design of the "Nomadic Museum" that houses it. The building, designed by Shigeru Ban uses materials that reference the frayed edges of New York City... empty shipping containers, giant cardboard tubes, gravel and raw wood. The view down the central walkway inside is worth the price of admission. It's like entering a cathedral but the industrial palette makes it more poetic than religious. The building and exhibit are designed to be easily disassembled and moved to other port cities. This view made me think about New York's constant state of decay and renewal... showing its age and its ability to define where the urban experience is going next.

As for Gregory Colbert's work... it is certainly interesting, especially given that both the building and art exhibit were entirely self-funded. There are a few beautiful and elegant photographs of elephants being revered by children in traditional dress. But after seeing several of these, the photos start to feel a bit contrived. In photo after photo, the child is peacefully sleeping... in puddles, next to a cheetah, and in various poses with the elephants. I get the whole slow time theme but a bit more subtlety would have been more powerful. Still, the walk down and back is a serene, beautiful and peaceful experience. Posted by Hello

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Shot this through the back window of my cab while sitting in traffic. Its always interesting to be in a city like DC... seeing the major sites as a side effect of getting somewhere else. I shot this with the built-in camera on my T-Mobile Sidekick. I think the low resolution and the rear-defogger wires make for a romantic image... it almost has an Alfred Stieglitz's Flatiron Building quality to it. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Top court looks at file-swap technology / Studios want to sue software-maker over downloads

Third Person Perspective
This is an interesting article on the Supreme Court Case regarding file sharing networks. The article and the case have frequently referenced the 1984 Sony Betamax decision that allowed the use of VCR's despite the fact that they could also be used for illegal copying. Gary Shapiro of the Consumer Electronics Association called the Betamax case the, "Magna Carta" of the industry.

Reading the article as an ex-Sony employee was interesting. It was a frequent topic of conversation internally and seeing the quotes from cautious and slow moving Sony media execs made it clear that I am now a third-person observer.

There are legitimate concerns on both sides but the extreme views on both sides are troubling. On the pro side, you have a whole generation of kids that have grown up downloading and burning music without any understanding or feelings that it might be wrong. There is a growing minority that is aware of the ethical issues but in the research we did we found that the large majority of college kids were not even aware of the ethical debate. On the extreme other side of the argument are music and movie executives... a relatively small group with a singular view of protecting ALL uses of their content in all cases with no acknowledgement of how the world might be changing. This is the group that was against radio and the VCR... technologies that have ultimately grown their business by significant margins. Both sides seem to be characterized more by their lack of understanding than their informed opinion.In the end, this is a very difficult issue. There are legitimate copyright concerns that are being ignored by a significant number of people. But, I suspect that the best way to get beyond this is to free consumers and technology companies to do what they do best... (spend and innovate respectively) . The content companies should continue to raise awareness of the issues and work on the new business models that may ultimately reward them with new revenue streams. It seems futile to try to block the natural evolution of a networked world.

This is a photo of Lake Wakatipu outside Queenstown, New Zealand. Its slightly enhanced but it was an amazing view on a "crisp" (cold in kiwi speak) beautiful morning. We were on our way to Mt. Aspiring National Park (somewhere in the center background) to go canyoning. Little did we know on the way there that canyoning would end up being the scariest thing we did in NZ.  Posted by Hello
OK, I've left Sony after working there for 10 years and I've decided to try and get this blog going again. A quick facelift and we'll see where it heads.