The New York Times Magazine has a long article by Michael Lewis about catastrophic risk, covering insurance analyst John Seo. I'm surprised there's no mention of Nassim Taleb and his book The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (which I have not yet read) about the very subject of forecasting events as unlikely and unpredictable as a hurricane devastating a major city .
Seattle commuters met the challenge of a partial I-5 closing. Lots of similarly dire warnings about an overloaded transit system are prompting me to bike into work on Tuesday, the day after Labour Day. I have no doubt that more people finding other ways to commute to work or school is an intended effect of such warnings.
Last week I was quoted in The Province about the Vancity Bike Share program, saying something like the following:
It was great. After I gave my bike away, I ended up buying a new bike and I've been riding to work twice a week now. It was a program that got me back cycling.
The headline, while technically accurate, makes it seem like Vancity is worried, or that we, the reader, should be worried. Whether I said those exact words, I don't know: the reporter who called me didn't record the conversation, since he was transcribing what I said (at one point he asked me to repeat myself). Also, the article mis-reports me as being 23, when really I'm 29. Regardless, that's going in my paper scrapbook for quotes and mentions in 'mainstream' or 'traditional' (or, my preference, 'broadcast', as distinct from 'social') media, a digital log of which is available on my site. It's reverse-chronological for now, but over time it might evolve into something combining dynamic updating and static information.
As some people know, I've been interested in the new fleet of Nova Buses purchased by TransLink, which have an unusual single seat behind the driver and seats in the back that face backwards. I like the wide entrance at the front, but most drivers seem to only open one of the doors, negating the advantage. I've read somewhere that drivers prefer how the Nova Bus handles compared to New Flyers (and I read in that same piece that it's especially true of icy conditions, but they've only recently come into service, and cold weather doesn't start for a few months). Today comes news that one of the wheels came loose and almost came off while near Broadway and Kensington in Burnaby. This was likely during the 134 route between Brentwood and Lougheed malls, as that's the only route that takes those streets.
From the article: "Only one bolt remained on the wheel, he said. Had the bus been allowed to continue running, [Canadian Auto Workers Local 111 vice-president Jim] Houlihan added, the wheel would have certainly come off." Good work by the driver to stay alert and order his passengers off, and good work by Coast Mountain Bus company to inspect each of the new buses.
The flight's booked, so now's as good a time as any to announce that I'll be in Toronto from October 16th to the 19th, on the 17th speaking at the Online News Association conference at the Sheraton Centre. In my capacity as managing editor of Urban Vancouver, I'll be speaking with Lisa Williams, with whom I worked on Placeblogger, at a talk titled "Filling the Gaps in Local Coverage". My current mindset on the topic is along the lines of the Ryan Sholin's question "what's missing from the news", the answer being "lots", the hard part being "how to we cover what's missing?" Individual blogging and local group blogs are part of the answer, and so is aggregation, but the questions I'd like to ask is "where are the editors of citizen journalism?" and "is there room for assignments and/or publishing schedules in the blogosphere?"
Always with the questions. I'm looking forward to visiting with the friends I made online and in person while visiting Toronto last year, and one I had already met without really realizing it at the time. (Long story.) I'm also looking forward to finally meeting Lisa, who runs a community site for Watertown, Massachusetts, one of Bryght's longest-running sites (more than 2 and a half years old) and someone I've known about 2 years before that.
This morning CBC TV contacted me though my contact form and then by my work's phone # (that's what I get for not publishing my personal phone #) and asked me to be interviewed for CBC News. I should be on sometime after 6 PM on Vancouver's CBC's evening news, talking about the Vancity Bike Share program. I don't do media interviews often, so it will show, but I enjoyed riding around on Roland's bike—of all the days I decide not to bike into work, I choose this one—and talking to the CBC reporter. They'll stream the story on the CBC website for 24 hours, which should give an enterprising someone the chance to 'archive' it.
I have yet to write at more length about my new bike purchase of a couple weeks ago, which was directly as a result of participating in the bike share. So far so good: it's a one hour workout each way, 10.5 KM to work and 8.5 KM back (I take different routes. I'm already pretty serious about it, having bought rain pants, back and front lights, and even weather proofing for some of my existing clothing. Still, the true test is not a bright Summer evening but cold, wet, and dark rides both ways in the Fall.
Ryan: “my friend quit Facebook and the rest of us sat dazed and confused musing about why her profile could have gone away. It was nerve wracking. We browsed around the site looking for answers, but Facebook didn't mention a thing. Apparently bad news is not worth telling anyone about. When the story unfolded it was something miraculously dull. The same old excuses we all use when we dump a technology: "it's getting boring, I want to do something else."”
Most of my day I spend watching ticket updates via email. Google Mail (Gmail) has nice threading, so I can look at a conversation and expand/contract them, but if I send an email from the ticketing system, or someone in the conversation sends a reply, it adds a little link at the bottom that says "Update Conversation". Pretty handy, but there has never been time when I wanted to not update the conversation. This is a waste of time and a waste of a click: I should be able to have the conversation update in real time, much like Google Reader updates. Greasemonkey, a plugin for the Firefox web browser that transparently adds functionality to websites, should be able to do this.
I asked on Twitter if it was available, and Gabriel stepped up with an attempt, but it doesn't quite work. I'm pointing it out to get more eyeballs looking at this: I can't be the only one who wants something like this. Any Greasemonkey developers out there that can build upon Gabriel's work so we can get this working?
While we're on the subject, if you partake in the fine Greasemonkey and Gmail smokes, be sure to install the script which secures logging into Google's application. All it does is redirect http:// to https:// for requests to mail.google.com, which applies to all of us who use Google Mail for Domains as well.
Last night, heading home, I decided but didn't commit to hopping on SkyTrain going in the wrong direction. That is, at Waterfront Station, many people go Westbound past the station to the switch, where the train "turns around" and heads Eastbound. People (smartly) do this to get a good seat before trains fill up with commuters, often by Stadium-Chinatown Station. As the SkyTrain pulled in, however, so did a West Coast Express train, taking people living in the Tri-Cities then on to Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge, and beyond, all the way to Mission. In all my 10+ years living here, I had never taken the train, mostly because my final destination is pretty much halfway between the longest stretch, from Waterfront Station to Port Moody Station. And I call myself a train aficionado.
Last night I felt my shit was fairly together, so I paid my 6 bucks and boarded the train that wouldn't leave for another half an hour. Since the train was empty, I took some photos of the interior, and recorded 20 minutes of video from Waterfront to Port Moody (70 MB, BitTorrent link). The conversation in the background of the video was a group of teens discussing how awesome they were. I also took mundane video of the train leaving the station (BitTorrent link). People who do it day in and day out must think it's terribly boring by now, but the rail activity and mountain and water views, not to mention my first ever in-person viewing of an oil spill's aftermath made me almost forget I had a camera in my had documenting the trip. My impressions of the train ride were that inside it feels slower than it looks when a train goes by (as it does near my office in Gastown), and that the air conditioning gave me the same slight sickness that it does in airplanes.
Almost everybody on the train that got off at Port Moody Station either drove or took one of the many community shuttles, almost all of which were headed East. Myself, I walked back up to St. John St. and took the 160 home, not looking up from my book the whole trip back. I had taken that bus ride a thousand times while working for the library in Port Moody, so nothing new there. The train ride, however, made me feel like a kid again.
[Cross-posted from NowPublic]
The fire alarm of my apartment building—technically the sister building of the building I live in—went off, waking me up at 1 AM. My window was wide open, so the smell of smoke filled my bedroom. Looking across the street over the new condominiums, I saw a huge plume of smoke. "Oh no," I thought, "Safeway's burning". Walking a block south, I found instead that once a favourite hangout for me and my friends, Hastings Bowl, was in flames.
Over a year ago, heavy snow collapsed the roof of the building, forcing out some of the busineses below, such as the dollar store whose owner would daily sweep the street before opening. Haven't heard what caused the fire, but CBC Radio reported that the building had been squatted from time to time.
My regular camera is in the Philippines documenting more compelling scenery, so the photos I did take with my cameraphone show little. This morning, at least 7 hours after the fire started, it continued to smolder. My Nokia N70 was able capture firefighters continuing to fight the smoldering blaze. I've uploaded the one that turned out the best here to NowPublic, but I'll point to my set on Flickr for the rest.
A quick note to publicize my Google Reader Shared Items feed URL: http://feeds.justagwailo.com/justagwailo/shared. It uses FeedBurner and its MyBrand service which lets you use your a subdomain of your own domain for feeds. (It's a little weird that you have to email to sign up, since it should be an automatic process where you click a button then set your DNS to point to feeds.feedburner.com, but at least, as which Rogers Cadenhead correctly argues, it prevents lock-in to the FeedBurner service.) Right now it's only my shared items directly from Google Reader. I'd like in the future for it to include my 'dugg' items at Digg, my Flickr and YouTube 'favorite' photos and videos, respectively, and if there was a feed for it, my MetaFilter and Ask MetaFilter 'favorite' posts and comments. Just Google Reader items for now, though, as it's the easiest to setup while letting me add to it later.
Please let me know if you have feedback on the shared items. Too much of one thing and not enough of another? I subscribe to about a hundred feeds, which isn't close to those whose shared items I subscribe to. If I have comments about an article, I'll either socially bookmark it or blog about it, but at least this is a low-threshold way to say "this is interesting for some reason" without giving that reason.
After listening to their album a couple of times from their site, I'm currently downloading the ambient electronic sounds of Au4, evidently pronounced "oh-four", who hail from Vancouver. I heard about the band through my co-worker Kris Krug (also of Static Photography). This was my first purchase of digital music outside iTunes, so hopefully the local band gets to see all of the money. They don't seem to be famous enough for a Wikipedia page, but maybe someone can re-write their their bio into a stub to get the process going. Their site links to their MySpace and something called vancitybands.com, evidently a showcase for independent Vancouver music.
Not much change from the list of podcasts I listen to from last month, but I did add two more since:
- Book's Music, from John Book, who plays a very wide variety of music on podcast episodes that are exactly an hour long each. I've known about John Book for several years, likely since 1997, when I first subscribed to the Influx mailing list about DJ Shadow.
- The Talk Show, an awfully-named podcast with an awful website with no show notes or links, and slowly improving production values. Dan Benjamin and John Gruber talk about Apple, Inc., and mostly about the iPhone lately. They've had an interview or two, and after 5 episodes, no women or non-white people have been guests. All that must make people wonder why I even bother subscribing, but I have to admit I think about the stuff they talk about (Macs, digital photography, the iPhone), so therefore I listen.
Also I'm listening to podcasts much more now that I leave my computer at work on weeknights. That was a decision I should have made several months ago.
After months of fidelity to NetNewsWire, the excellent news reader for the Mac, I'm switching back to Google Reader. The reasons for getting drawn back include peer pressure (everybody's doing it) and the social features (the 'Share' button beneath every item), as well as not requiring a manual refresh. The automated refresh makes it harder to reflect, but that's what leaving your computer at work is for. Google Reader still needs authenticated feed support, but at least in my case the only stuff requiring a password is work-related, and I appreciate that the separation between the browser to a desktop application leads to separation between work and play, something I value more than I let on. I also like subscribing to people's shared items, so other than Darren Barefoot and Kevin Marks, could you please publicize the link for me to paste in? (Especially interested in reading the perspective non-white or non-dude peopel, or both, since my reading list is currently at 100% gwai lo.) I'd love to know what my readers are reading.
(What about my URL? I'm afraid it's going to change at some point in the future so naturally I'm working on an overwrought solution to that.)
Talking to Darren about his shared items, he reminded me of the 'Trends' section, which shows what you've read as opposed to marked as read. After about 3,000 entries (over slightly less than a week), it looks like I read pretty much everything that crosses my path. This is most certainly not true. The number is closer to %50, if that. I'd love to know what I see but don't read, much like how in iTunes I can (but don't) know what songs I'm likely not to listen to after hearing the first bit. iTunes keeps track of which songs were skipped, and if there were a way to tell Google Reader "yup, saw it, don't care" then I can get stats on what I'm paying inattention to. Over lunch, Mark noted that Google reader marks as read things that you've passed, and suggested Google Reader could flag as 'seen-but-not-read' any item that you spent less than 2 seconds—or whatever—looking at. That probably won't work for most intense information consumers, nor will it work for me, simply because there are photos and take me about 2 seconds to see and "read" and maybe there's a post with one sentence that contained significant wit and brevity that it took me less than the alloted time to consume.
Facebook, as many people know, is a social networking site for keeping in touch with the people you know, and for sharing things with those people. I've found that it strengthens the weak bonds I've had with people I've met a few times and gotten to know, and has re-united me with people from my past whom I regretted not keeping in touch with. There are still people who haven't joined—I should just send them an email—but for those that have I've found things out about some of them that I really should have known anyway (including a pregnancy) and some I don't want to know much about (relationship details).
The above ad sometimes appears in my Facebook News Feed. It's fairly clearly marked as a sponsored ad, and while a little too close to looking like information about my friends for comfort (and why on Earth would I want to share an ad I didn't seek out?), the site has to make a dollar, and they do that through advertising. I see a problem with this, however: why can't the above ad have at least something to do what it knows about me? Facebook seems not to be aware of the fact that I'm in a relationship, something I explicitly told the site! It's a little shocking that here are in 2007 with contextual ads being all the rage and the website that has the most personal in both qualitative and quantitative can't figure out my status. I'm tired of Facebook thinking that I'm tired of being single, especially when it knows I'm not single!