After finally finding some time to browse through the bookmarks created over the week, I was able to look through the link to the Flickr search for "Giro di Burnaby", the annual bike race in Burnaby Heights. Race organizers closed down Hastings between Willingdon and MacDonald and the crowd gathered to watch the road Criterium bike race in Vancouver's suburb to the East. I posted my own crappy cameraphone photos and video, with other formats (digital SLR and it works, fisheye film) to come in that set. In the meantime, check out the far superior sets from Carol Browne, Jon Christall, Stewart (first photo of the 2008 Giro di Burnaby from his photo stream), Kati Debelic (first photo in a more general Cycling set; that's her photo at the top), as well as the set by MJXWDY.
If you really must know, yes, I'm getting an iPhone. It was not a no-brainer until very recently, when Rogers/Fido offered a promotional 6 GB plan for $30 on top of a voice plan. Still not a no-brainer, because after some speculation, about whether my plan was eligible for the most coveted of mobile computing platforms, I called Fido today to find out if I'm eligible for that which must be worshiped and/or bitched about. The plan has nationwide Fido-to-Fido calling, necessary for calling the girl while we had our long distance relationship, my being in Vancouver and her being in Toronto; unlimited weekends and evenings; something called "Can. ID" (can someone enlighten me as to what that does?); and that's it for exactly 30 dollars a month. That last point is important because it qualifies me for the $249 8 GB iPhone, not the $199 8 GB iPhone, which comes with a plan of more than 30 dollars a month.
Added to my current plan are Caller ID and 50 monthly text messages. No voicemail for quite some time now: it was always quicker for me to call the person back and ask them what they were calling about then to listen to the message, find a pen to write down the number (which requires rewinding not being as fast a write as people are talkers) and forget to delete the message, then listen to my voicemail later on wondering if it was a new message or not. Visual Voicemail looks interesting, but I don't get enough phone calls to warrant paying for it. Forgetting to ask the helpful French-accented Fido representative if I could keep the add on features, I still assume the answer is yes.
Frequently Asked Questions
What am I going to do with the iPhone?
Re-document my world, using Drupal of course, since the phone has GPS and there are going to be all kinds of cool applications on it. (Drupal + Location is in currently in a state of flux and I already have some geolocation stuff happening on this site and am planning more.) And listen to music and watch videos. Not making or receiving many phone calls, I don't really care all that much about the phone part of the iPhone.
Could I have bought an unlocked N95 at a cool $600 from an unknown Craigslist posting?
Absolutely. The 3-year contract the Rogers/Fido alliance goes in the "cost" column, and at $400 maximum to exit and not anticipating a move outside Canada in the next 3 years, that's something I can handle. The N95 is nice, but I can't stand the complete lack of usability on the Series 60 operating system. Everything's a pain. Everything on the iPhone looks so smooth.
When am I getting it?
Not today, and likely not this weekend. I'll wait until next week when the rush dies down a little bit. People are saying that stock is low today as well.
Does that mean you, dear reader, should get an iPhone too?
You don't have to get an iPhone.
What about your existing iPod mini, GlobalSat DG-100 GPS logger and Nokia N70 cell phone?
I never got Internet sharing between a Series 60 phone (like my Nokia N70) working with my Mac, and now I don't have to! The iPod, GPS unit and N70 will get new lives for people that don't have an iPhone. Since I don't have the latter yet, it'll be a few months before I give them away.
There's still time. Happy Canada Day!
All I did was loaf around, dressed in red shorts and a red shirt with white text on it, playing with a newly acquired HD TV tuner, watching the old Russell Peters Canadian comedy classic, and getting ready for a long overdue trip to Vancouver Island, skipping the fireworks as is my tradition in anticipation of the better ones later in the summer. It was great!
Photo by Stephen Rees.
Recently, Josh Stenberg (yes, the Josh Stenberg) asked me to take a look at the Vancouver Society for the Chinese Performing Arts' latest offering, a performance of Kunqu opera featuring Liang Guyin, Ji Zhenhua and Liu Yilong. Josh tells me the society is "having trouble getting a gwailo audience because they think it's all cat-meow-shrieking, which it's not". Myself, the China somewhat-expert that I am, I happen to think Peking Opera really is cat-meow-shrieking, but I watched and otherwise loved Farewell My Concubine so I'm willing to give a different form of Chinese opera a chance. Upcoming performances of the opera in Vancouver are June 16th and 17th at UBC's Frederic Wood Theatre and you can get tickets at Ticketmaster.
Susan Goodman got close up and wrote an article and posted photos of a 2007 Kunqu opera performance in Nanjing, directed by the aforementioned Josh Stenberg.
Last night I attended my first meeting of the Vancouver Public Space Network (VPSN) Mapping & Wayfinding group. They are a group of mapping enthusiasts who want to organize collaboratively mapping Vancouver's public spaces and have some interesting ideas on how to do so, including a web service with a REST interface, but also hand-drawn maps. Let it ring throughout the world that I consider Joey deVilla the master of the hand-drawn directional map, after showing me how to get to his work from his former house back when I visited in 2005.
Having heard about it two hours before and deciding to go with one hour to spare, I pre-loaded two of my maps on Flickr. One was the map I made of my bike route home, and the other was the map of a SkyTrain Explorer walk in Burnaby. I got to talk about the latter a bit, and showed off my GlobalSat DG-100, and we talked about the different methods to track points when mapping out various items in the city, like surveillance cameras, bicycle locks and billboards. (Especially "non-conforming signs": the CBC has a short story on the Lee Building advertisement that Vancouver City Council ordered removed after the owners lost their court battle to keep it up. Read more at the VPSN's page on corporatization.) I suggested taking a photo, since the times will match up with the GPS logger, but there are other good, paper & pen methods too.
After the meeting, instead of doing the dishes, I looked deeper into geocoding on the Mac and added the 'geo' microformat to all of my Flickr photos hosted on justagwailo.com that are tagged with a longitude and latitude. A good example is the photo I took of Dave Olson: if you have Firefox and the Operator extension, you can use the actions associated with location to get KML (Google Earth) or view the location on Google Maps or Yahoo! Maps. (I already provide a small Google Map on each geotagged photo hosted on my site.) At last night's meeting, I also learned about geocoder.ca, which gives you latitude and logitude of locations if you give them a fuzzy description (like an address, or an intersection). They also have an API, for free or for fee. Wasn't there a web service floating around that would accept your text and send you back geotagged HTML if it found what it thought were locations inside that text?
I haven't decided whether to participate in the billboard documenting effort—it will depend on how much work surveying a quadrant will be—but I plan on attending their next organizing event. The next VPSN Billboard project meeting from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM at the MOSAIC Community Meeting Room, located at 1720 Grant St. in Vancouver BC [event listing]. Just for fun, that previous sentence is marked up in the hcalendar event listing microformat.
The Sessions I Attended At Northern Voice
In point form, as is the style of the time, here is how I spent my Saturday.
- missed the keynote speech. I'll catch the audio later on.
- instead of slacking with Stephanie, Victoria, Kim and others as long as intended, I visited Nancy White's presentation advocating we take some time away from the textual world of blogging and look at the imagery. And even create our own. I'll save the story for how I came up with bubble ice cream for another day.
- attended Dave Olson's Fuck Stats, Make art presentation (Northern Voice wiki page with notes and links), which showed his personal journey to hone his craft and demonstrated how others can take their own journey.
- after giving Arjun Singh's presentation a try, I snuck into Alan Levine's presentation on storytelling, but only to get a good seat for the next presentation...
- ...titled The Other Side of Two Dimensions with Vancouver fashion photographer Kris Krug and Vancouver commercial and fine art photographer Alex Waterhouse-Hayward, the latter talking about photography we can feel.
- after skipping the penultimate session, I attended Stephanie Vacher's talk on design in the new media world.
What I Learned From Northern Voice
During MooseCamp, specifically PhotoCamp, I learned that cloudy days are the best to get colour from the objects and people I'm documenting. Also, for portraits, bring the studio to them and tips on where to take portraits from (e.g. shoot down to make them look better) stuck out for me. The rest of the conference I closed the door of knowledge and opened the window of inspiration.
Who Challenged Me At Northern Voice
Whether they knew it or not, intended it or not, the following people challenged me to think a little harder about creativity and craft. People close to me wonder why I don't identify as being creative. The following Northern Voice speakers have me wondering too.
Dave Olson challenged me to step it up a notch, and to consider another media form if I'm struggling at the one I think I'm good at (writing). Podcasting, maybe? I don't like the sound of my own voice, so that strikes video out as well. Photography is the medium I sunk the most into already, so I will try to bring the SLR to more places, make the same mistakes everybody makes when they start out, and document the process better. I'd like to learn how to draw. And sing. Outside of the conference, he remarked that he likes to find a third place, away from work and away from home to be creative. This has me thinking of the ideal place to work somewhere (and on something) not domestic and not commercial, but somewhere in between.
(I know that my desire to learn how to sing directly conflicts with the angst about hearing my voice, so don't bother pointing that out.)
Nancy White challenged me to look at the beauty of the visual web, not just the written web. I do prefer visiting an individual article directly, especially articles intended for web browsers (and not printers). Nancy, by challenging me to think visually, to give drawing or other graphic form of expression and honest try, challenged me to rediscover my sense of wonder, a nice little nudge to remind me I wanted to do that anyway.
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward challenged my thinking on Flickr and the social photographic web, disagreeing with Kris on whether it should be rejected. Through the tension between them we learned about two styles of photography, both of which contribute to our understanding of the subject. He also challenged me to think about lighting and the third dimension, making the physical photograph part of the photograph.
Stephanie, nervous as she was during her first time public speaking, challenged me to think about the process of my "designing". If I understood her correctly, she challenged everybody in the audience to investigate what it means to design and to, if they can get themselves in the mindset, think of themselves as designers.
Dave, Nancy, Alex, and Stephanie: I accept your challenges.
There are a few things I would do very differently at Friday's Blogging 101 for Northern Voice:
- define blogging better than just listing its features. That said, everybody has their own definition. I went witha features listing since they're fairly well agreed upon.
- do not give legal advice! We'll have to go to the tape, but I might have told someone to sue someone else who was getting high rank for her name and saying nasty stuff. Not doing that next time.
- do more run-throughs, with a small audience to feed back. Not a big deal in this case, but it'll be important to present well in my future, and I'd like to get into the habit of practicing in front of people instead of in front of my TV screen.
How to Get Comments On Your Blog
As for the content of the presentation, I flubbed an question that I had a good answer to. Someone asked about how to get comments, and my unsatisfactory-to-me answer was to "comment on your own post". I still think it's legitimate, since it's more elegant than typing "Update:" and gives you a timestamp in the database (and with some systems, you get an RSS feed for comments). My other reasoning for doing it is that I tend to click on a link that says "1 comment" more often than one that says "0 comments", so it's a sneaky way to get your view count up. The best way to get comments, though, is to write a full blog post, but afterwards cut out the last paragraph of your post, save it somewhere else for later, and let one of your readers say it. That lets people fill in the blank you left, and if they're mistaken or you need to add something, then you can paste back in your conclusion as a response in the comments. Blogging is not a monologue.
What I Was Happy About
During the run-throughs all by my lonesome at my apartment, it became clear that I needed something to do with my hands. Last year I stuck them in my pocket, but this year, with good presentation software, I realized I could use the cool little remote that came with my MacBook. Not just as something to push slides ahead—a little awkwardly, since my computer was beside me and not in front of me—but it would keep my hands occupied just enough not to distract from the overall performance.
My slides with only one or two words on each. I used them not because I knew it was a best-practice (I either didn't know it, forgot it, or internalized it: Jeffrey Keefer reminded me of Seth Godin's tips after having attended my presentation), but because after reading from the screen during last year's presentation, I wanted reminders to talk about what I knew really well already, not a script. Karen suggested I did it because I liked other, good presentations that did it, and she's absolutely right. I'm glad I didn't go with stunning photos. That would have been too much work.
I took off my sweater and felt okay about wearing a t-shirt from work. It turned into a short conversation piece when one of the audience members asked what was on it, I think believing I was supporting a certain American elected official.
If I hadn't taken my sweater off, I would have over-heated, contributing to a vicious cycle of nervousness. Instead I sacrificed a little class for a little calm, and I'd do the same thing over again.
Here's a list of things I did on my computer before attaching the overhead projector to my MacBook. They're by no means best-practices, but they were in response to presentations I've seen before.
- Closed all email, instant messaging, RSS reader, and anything else that might bounce on the dock or send a Growl notification to the screen. At least two presenters either forgot to do this or left them on intentionally. Distracting! The only two applications that were open were the ones absolutely necessary to the success of the presentation: Keynote and Firefox.
- Pre-loaded all my websites I was going to show in browser tabs. It's better than typing in URLs and waiting for stuff to load, assuming you can get reliable speeds at a conference were a dozen people are already uploading their photographs.
- Disabled the Bookmark Toolbar, which has links to sensitive information. I didn't need it, otherwise I mis-click and give access to everybody in the room and watching online to my work areas.
- Deleted the browser URL history. Everybody has a URL or two that they're ashamed of. And if you're not, you're lying.
- The night before, I cleared my desktop of icon clutter. Nobody needs to know that I download The Wire via BitTorrent. Rather, nobody needs proof.
- Just before presenting, I tested that the presentation software (Keynote) will display the right thing in the right screen. I used someone else's presentation to make sure that the presenter's notes showed on my laptop screen and not the projector. For this I was lucky I was the first presenter, so I had time to do that. You might not have that luxury.
Forthcoming are what I think I did right during the presentation as well as what I could have done better or forgot to do.
Tonight I skipped out on the pre-event party, and instead enjoyed a quiet night of book reading, presentation preparation, and t-shirt ironing before the Northern Voice storm. (Who irons their t-shirts? Me, that's who.) Tomorrow morning I'll present very briefly an intro to blogging, then conspire Lloyd to get people started on WordPress.com, then attend a Moosecamp session or two—a potential session on multilingual blogs looks interesting—and finally attend a blogger meetup. I'll try to sneak in some alone time, at which point I'll have yet another good hearty laugh about what Darren Barefoot wrote yesterday. Then on Saturday I'll attend the conference part of the conference.
I probably won't respond to your email until Sunday.
Rebecca has ordered Moo MiniCards, hoping she'll get them before Northern Voice, reminding me to bring mine this weekend. I still have quite a few left over from the two boxes I ordered a year or two ago.
Here are the photos that appear on the cards I hand out. It feels weird to give people cards with my mug on it, but I thought maybe people might forget what I look like after they've met me.
Are you attending Northern Voice on Friday or Saturday? If so, which Moo card do you want?
Photo by Roland Tanglao.
When shopping for Christmas gifts at the Laughing Oyster bookstore in Courtenay, I came across a book whose subtitle, or rather, its very long and prominent description, spoke to me. Ever since befriending people who were able to project an attitude that they can change the world—or at least their world—for the better, I've started to believe the same thing. This belief came in direct conflict with my long-held attitude that I was just one person, that I neither had the energy nor the inclination to find the cause that I couldn't not join, the something so undeniably wrong that I couldn't not do something about. Everything seems taken care of. Global warming? Somebody's working on that. Sexism? A whole cadre of activists are on it. Hate, poverty, racism? All issues that I can outsource my conscience to someone else because these were so obviously problems that there were enough people on the job.
Enter Getting To Maybe: How the World Is Changed by Frances Westley, Brenda Zimmerman and Michael Quinn Patton. The "subtitle", in text as big as the title, that grabbed my attention reads: “This book is for those who are not happy with the way things are and would like to make a difference. This book is for ordinary people who want to make connections that will create extraordinary outcomes. This is a book about making the impossible happen.” I showed the book to Karen, my agent of change, who knew my struggle with cynicism and with trying to find my passion. She offered to buy it for me. She thought this might be something to knock me into action, whatever that might be. She was right, but it won't knock me into action soon.
Westley, Zimmerman and Patton describe the people who are the forces behind social change as "social innovators". I see social innovators all around me, but I yet don't have the confidence to describe myself as one. (Yet: one person, who will remain nameless, has pointed out that I'm at the top of a pyramid, and whether or not I agree with the idea that I'm "over" people, I concede that there are people who listen to me and take me seriously during the times I want to be taken seriously, and that my influence with them is nonzero.) The authors challenge the mindset that problems have simple explanations and simple solutions, and argue that embracing complexity and, most difficult for me, ambiguity lead to the change that social innovators seek. They also challenge the notion that the best social innovators are the strong personalities, and argue that they are rather people from all dispositions that felt a calling. They could not not act. Even if the social innovators knew for a fact that they wouldn't solve the problems in their lifetime, or even ever if they lived forever, they could not stand idly by while it was happening. "Not on my watch", Ulysses Seal of the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group said to himself. Write the authors: “that watch will last his lifetime, but by thinking about his mission in this way, he makes it human-scaled—manageable enough to carry without succumbing to despair.”
The authors recommend constant evaluation during implementation and finding moments to sit still, to see where social innovators are and to note changes in the social landscape and adjust. Citing the case of PLAN (Planned Lifetime Advocacy Networks) and their struggle to scale their network out, the authors suggest that not every movement can be replicable, or at least not quickly, despite pressures to do so. Other case studies offer more lessons. The case of Opportunities 2000 in Waterloo, Ontario suggested that even though the implementors believed they had only a small but measurable effect, theirs was the motivating force. Others found success through their failure: Roméo Dallaire, a Canadian hero if there ever was one, could not prevent a genocide in Rwanda, and lost everything after he retired. His current stature amongst Canadians has vindicated him, and he finds success in speaking tours around the country. (His stature amongst Belgians is another story.) MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), Bob Geldof, and other cases illustrate the calling, the struggles, the failures, and the changing landscapes social innovators face when making the change they must make.
The authors tend to repeat their stories for effect, and sometimes showcase overtly political motives (as opponents of the war in Iraq and President Bush), and their approach might be a tough sell in an age of one-liners and easy solutions. Despite that and not being able to identify with many of the cases presented, I found the book inspiring. Karen, unwittingly or not, bought this not for the current me, but rather the future me. The me who lets the ideas and stories in the book rattle around in his brain for a little while and waits for the forces that cause me to find my calling align. Or, as the chapter title has it, for hope and history to rhyme. They haven't yet, and they will. After having read this book, I'm better prepared for when they do.
Jan has the recap, and Raul liveblogged it: on Wednesday I attended the Vancouver Blogger meetup and met with some people who actually read this blog. Jan, among others, encouraged me to keep writing this thing, not to worry about quality too much. There are times when I'm in "flow", and I finally realized that one of those times is after having read offline materials for about an hour. Yet again, the solution is to read more books!
At the meetup, I continued to work through what I thought about citizen journalism. NowPublic has a great concept for a site, but I've been following the 'vancouver' tag for over a year and have yet to find a story they've broken or led with in reporting. The overwhelming majority of stories are conspiracy theories or re-posts of stories from established media. For one very recent story I had hopes for (happening on a college campus, so you know there's going to be lots of intelligent, web savvy energetic young folk with cell phones and cameras), a NowPublic user kept me up to date with the lockdown of a building at the University of British Columbia. I heard about it first from Phillip Jeffrey's Twitter stream. The NowPublic story fueled rumours that the police were responding to someone with a gun. Any confirmation on that, two days later? There's also the usual social media triumphalism in the comments, but don't we hate it when CBC and CTV and CKNW claim they had the "exclusive"?
I met lots of people I had only heard about, and some I hadn't.
I'm speaking in a few weeks at the Northern Voice blogging conference, 2008 edition. About blogging. Yes, the very subject I once declared I had lost enthusiasm for. You'll see me at 10:45 AM on the Friday, during the Internet Boot Camp. That's later in the day than I thought it would be, happily so. I'm looking very much forward to Dave Olson's "Fuck Stats Make Art" presentation and Stephanie Vacher's "Apparatus for the Future" talk. Otherwise I will try the conference lobby provocateur role this year, talking with as many people that I've only heard about as possible.
http://justagwailo.com/shared/feed is the link to my "shared items" feed. It will never change (the one to my Google Reader account might). It reflects only what I find interesting, without comment, and includes not only my Google Reader shared items, but also my YouTube 'favorite' videos, my Flickr 'favorite' photos, and my Digg "diggs". There are individual feeds for each (there is no official RSS feed for my MetaFilter 'favorites' sadly: if there was, I'd include those too), so I feed them through the Drupal aggregator here on justagwailo.com. To track how many subscribers there are to it, I then use FeedBurner. http://justagwailo.com/shared is the "HTML" version of this, but I don't like the idea of syndicating other people's content on my site, so it just looks like they're big links. There's something to be said about aggregating decentralized low-threshold sharing mechanisms. I'm not the person to say it, at least not yet.
Karen and I went up to Hollyburn Mountain in Cypress Bowl to snowshoe on the free trail with the hiking club this past Sunday. This time, instead of taking with me the old Olympus, and instead of limited visibility, we took along the DSLR, wrapped it up in the protective tarp that came with the carrying case, and set out to clear views of British Columbia's Lower Mainland. At the top of the cross-country ski run, just before the steep parts of the mountain, while fumbling with the camera to get a good close-up of the cute little birdies, one of said cute little birdies snatched the remains of my turkey and cheese sandwich. Other adventures on Sunday included falling and slipping down the mountain face not once but twice, then on the time I intended to slide on my butt, hurtling down at 12 km/hour (if my GPS logger is to be believed), an orange marker pole came out of nowhere and bit me on the face. I subdued it, but there was some bleeding.
Somehow I managed to take the above masterpiece, which Sameer generously described in the comments of the photo on Flickr as <q cite="http://www.flickr.com/photos/sillygwailo/2217447823/#comment72157603789240792>like something out of a fairy tale. This one gets the large and above-the-text treatment, unlike my usual adorned-inline-with-the-text job. There's no advice I can give about how to duplicate it, other take three shots, fiddle with the settings between each shot, and keep the best one. As with last time, I took along the GPS logger and got the locations of the January 20th photos mapped [January 5th trip map]. Earlier today I also added all my geotagged photos into one set, itself having a map.
After this and the previous trip, we've decided that we have had our fill of Hollyburn, and are turning our sights to Mount Seymour. Count me out if it rains, but the trip I took there before exposed me to some pretty intense snowboarder dudes (the ones who carry shovels with them as they go down what look to this untrained eye as 90 degree inclines) and lots of slope variation. This weekend I'm going with some work friends, so this will be a different—which is to say familiar—crowd, since the hiking group is almost always comprised of strangers. I'm bringing the good camera, weather permitting.