Thursday, June 22, 2006

the doldrums

Now that hockey season is over (thanks, Hurricanes) and even basketball has crowned its king (go Heat!), we've got 10 days of World Cup inconvenient programming to tide us over until the Tour de France starts.

Can't wait to watch the prologue July 1!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

whom to trust? (or: what's our ETD?)

Ending my stay at the Identity Mashup conference in Cambridge, I found it more than a little ironic that I was confronted head-on by the trust issue as I sat contemplating when to leave for the airport for my flight back to SFO.

My flight was scheduled to depart at 6:11pm from Logan airport. The forecast called for a wicked band of thunderstorms to come screaming through the area in the late afternoon. As the storms moved west to east, the entire Eastern Seaboard could domino through a series of longer delays as equipment got stranded on the tarmacs of IAD, DCA, EWR, LGA, etc. A witches' brew for spending hours trapped at the terminal.

Cue thunder and a darkening sky outside the classroom, and it was time to consult the flight status web sites to see what they'd say. That's right, sites. I like to triangulate in on the correct data, as I've been burned by relying on the airline to tell me everything's peachy when in reality it's going to hell in a handbasket. I don't think I'm the only one they've done this to, so maybe you know what I'm talking about.

So, at 3:45pm, sitting in Austin Hall at Harvard, I consulted three different web sites to try to learn when United flight 179 would really depart:
  • flight status widget- Scheduled departure time: 6:11pm. Estimated departure time: 6:11pm. It would appear the thunderstorms would be having no effect on the United schedule out of Boston.
  • FAA's Flight Delay Information System - There's weather-related delays of 15 minutes for arriving planes and 30 minutes for departing planes out of BOS. No other East Coast airports are affected, so it looks as if the dominoes aren't in place to cause a really long delay, but why isn't the United site showing any sign of this? The FAA simply links to the United site to look up flight-specific info, so that's no help.
  • The Weather Channel's Business Traveler Flight Tracker - The weather radar shows a wall of red descending upon the Boston metro area, and a the flight tracker shows the expected scheduled departure time of 6:11pm yet an estimated departure time of 9:27pm. A three hour delay? Yikes.
Whom to trust?

It seems it's in United's best interest to not show a delay so folks won't scamper to other flights. (Even though I've signed up for their "EasyUpdate" service that sends a text message to my phone should my flight status change, they seem to wait to send notices of delayed departures to me until after I'm standing in the security line at the airport. The worst of these times was when I was flying from Vegas to SFO and instead of finding out about the four hour departure delay while I was still on the Strip and near the poker tables, I got the text message as I was taking my shoes off at the scanner. Grrrr.)

For better or worse, I think the FAA doesn't have any reason to report anything but the facts (ma'am). And the Weather Channel has always been so very good at forecasting events in the future with great accuracy (not!), but still that three hour delay is one heck of an outlier here.

I check to see who's feeding the Weather Channel their flights status info and it turns out the data's coming in from FlyteComm (what a clever name!). Looking up the status of flight 179 on the FlyteComm site directly shows no difference from what's on, so there's no disconnect there.

The thought of spending three hours at Logan doesn't sit well with me. I'd rather spend the time observing the Code and Law panel and then going to the cocktails and demos event.

But what if it turns out United isn't lying? I check to see what the cost of relying on FlyteComm's data instead of United's by looking for the next departing flight to SFO from BOS. It's at 6:50am Wednesday morning. Ouch, it's an overnight penalty if I show up late for a flight that left on time.

After much gnashing of teeth, I decide spending three hours at Logan is a much better proposition than staying the night at Logan.

So I arrive at the airport in plenty of time to take off as scheduled: at 6:11pm.

The big lesson I've learned is to treat the flight tracker info on the site (powered by FlyteComm!) like I do any weather forecast: with great suspicion bordering on amusement as long as I don't get soaked.

While FlyteComm is launching an app for mobile flight status checking, I won't be using it. The data is only convenient if it's accurate, at least to me.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

creating the email link

setting it up so I can now blog from my Treo. Hopefully this will
allow me to post more often.

Monday, June 19, 2006

legislation as blunt instrument

Listening to Christine Varney, an attorney at Hogan & Hartsen, speak at the Identity Mashup panel on Privacy and Civil Liberties in Benign and Hostile Environments.

Hadn't quite thought of it in such a fatalistic manner, but this is what she has to say about legislation:
Legislation is a blunt instrument that's rarely effective, has copious unintended consequences and is usually inspired by big companies.

The government doesn't have nearly as much data on us as the corporations do (witness the telephone records incidents).
Then, Identity Woman Kaliya comments in the IRC:
The issue not being talked about [on the panel] is the way the courts have interpreted the 4th amendment as not applying to third party storage of information/data. Addressing this must be done legally/socially, not through technical protocols.
But if we heed Christine's warning about legislation, we're stuck with finding a social way of addressing it. What's the answer then?

What kind of social recourse do we have, especially after "The Next 9/11" when the government goes after the third parties even harder.

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Esther Dyson at Identity Mashup 2006

Listening to Esther chime in on the opening panel "What You Need to Know About Identity"

Her high-level overview of the Accountable Net:
The accountable net notion is peer-to-peer (I'll be accountable to you, and you be accountable to me) and that only works with a persistent identity.

The first commandment of the Accountable Net: Do ask, don't lie.

You have every right to ask who I am and what I've done. I don't need to answer, but if I don't I can't expect to be extended the same privileges as those who do answer. If I do answer, I cannot lie (and if you don't like my answer, you don't have to extend me priviledges you don't want to).

Dyson was just at the Where2.0 conference (all about maps and location and GPS and stuff like that). What the conference was really about was identity: you in the map (as an avatar in Second Life, or as a place on a Google Map), and all the tools for representing self on the map.

Do we want privacy or do we want attention? Newest tools are about attention, establishing a conspicuous identity in the world. But we don't realize the slime trail we're leaving. When we do see it, we may be alarmed at what can be traced back to us. We need better understanding of the "cost" of using these new attention-getting tools.

I like her ability to cut to the chase on the challenge ahead (bold is mine):
The debate isn't about whether there will be a national ID card or a chip or what have you... we're already there. It's called your DNA. So, the problem isn't so much identity theft, but that folks will aggregate your segregated identities and add stuff you don't want there by aggregating.

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

better than boot camp

So, news out of Herndon, Virginia today is the release of Parallels Desktop for Mac that allows you to run WinXP (or any other version of Windows back to 3.1) on your PowerMac as a window within the Mac desktop. At last, we can run Windows apps (Visio!) at the same time we're running Mac programs (everything else!).

As you know, this differs greatly from Bootcamp's either/or proposition where you can boot into either operating system but only one at a time.

Isn't this just an update to Virtual PC? Well, according to Mossberg in the WSJ, Parallels is written specifically for the new Intel-based Macs so it runs fast, even faster than some of the PCs running WinXP native.

I think I've finally discovered the last straw holding me back from replacing the old Gateway with a MacMini and becoming a mac-only household (at last!)

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Monday, June 12, 2006

full-face irony: stupidity scrolling

Is this ironic or what?

While watching the US World Cup team get dismantled by Czechoslovakia on ESPN2 this morning, the scroll at the bottom of the screen flashed news of a motorcycle accident involving a footballer (in the US-sense of the word).

As the story came into focus, the scroll updated to show Ben Rothlisberger, star quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers, had been taken to the hospital after crashing his motorcycle into a car.

Eyewitnesses state Ben's head hit the windshield of the car and there was blood involved.

Eyewitnesses also reported he wasn't wearing a helmet. (hey, helmets are only for game days!)

My first thought was: how incredibly stupid is it for Ben to be riding around without a helmet on? Safety issues aside, he's breaking the law, isn't he? Or at least violating the "thou shalt do nothing stupid" clause of his NFL contract with the Steelers, no?

Then I checked to see that Pennsylvania's Governor, Edward G Rendell, repealed the state's mandatory helmet law back in 2003. Wow, it seems there's a full-blown epidemic.

While Ben's only taking his own life in his hands, the governor's set up thousands of others to make a mose unwise decision to ride without a brain-bucket in place.

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The evolution of dance

One of the funnier six minutes I've spent in a while. I only wish this trip through memory lane wasn't so vividly close to the bone. If you associate with Gen X or Gen Y, the moves (and music) will be all too familiar to you.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Melanie II

Melanie II
Originally uploaded by karmafood.
For someone who doesn't like her picture taken, I'm glad I can rely on others to sneak photos of her (she always runs away when she sees the camera in my hand).

So beautiful. I'm lucky to have her as my wife, and the mother of my daughters.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Wright Brothers Monument silhouette

I've been driving by the Wright Brothers monument for decades (literally) and this year was the first time I bothered to visit up close and personal (in all honesty, it was more for Hannah than for me). Although my parents have pictures of me at the Monument from when I was 18 months old, I can't recall teh visit myself, so it doesn't count.

I'm so glad we went this trip... there was much more to the monument than I expected.

Instead of there simply being a replica of the 1903 craft and some markers in the field, the exhibit showed how the Wright brothers' scientific approach made it all possible. Granted, much of the "sprucing up" may have been done in time for the Centennial Celebration a few years back, but the residual upgard is very impressive to walk through.

Instead of being the tinkerers I thought the bicycle-building brothers were, they instead were very methodical scientists who broke out the process of flying into three problems to be solved: 1) lift, 2) control and 3) power.
In the exhibit hall, there were installations that showed how the brothers created a kite version of the aircraft to refine the "lift" technology, then created a glider version of the craft to further refine lift and work on in-flight control and finally made the engine to provide the power via push propellers. And all the notes they took along the way were shown, as well. Very methodical and ultimately led to the solution.

Walking through the monument grounds, I found myself thinking about all the big hairy "unsolvable" problems out there and how they might break down into components to crack one at a time along the way. An inspirational day, to be sure.

Makes me think I should spend more time walking around historically significant sites to change my frame of reference.

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