Public Speaking on Privacy

Every time I give a talk, I find I enjoy it more. This is scary.

I prepared for the talk by spending almost the entire day working on my Python program, stopping only when I noticed it was time to drive up to the Center. That was much more relaxing than honing my presentation would have been. And I even made good progress on the program; I hope to actually start using it tomorrow.

Command Performance

I didn’t expect to be updating my ‘blog today; I thought I’d be too busy working on my privacy presentation for tomorrow, or maybe hacking my Python program. But I got the presentation done early this afternoon, or as done as it’s going to be until I decide to revise it ten minutes before showtime, and I find that if I program late in the evening, I have a hard time getting out of that mode so I can go to sleep. So here I am.

Besides, Diane is in a class this week and asked me to write something in my ‘blog so she’d have something to read during the dull parts. To be honest, I’m not sure that this particular entry is going to be much more interesting than the class, but how can I say no to such a charming requestor?

But really, today was a quiet day; I concentrated on doing work at work — I even managed to submit an expense account that’s been on my queue for a week, so perhaps American Express will not be unhappy with me.

Hormel throws in the pig.

Still looking at broadband alternatives for the house; people on DSL Reports have some good things to say about Earthlink and LinkLine and Raw Bandwidth. Nobody seems to talk much about the cable alternative, at least not on this site — anyone using @Home in Los Gatos?

They claim that it’s going to be cooler tomorrow evening. I hope so; it’s amazing how fast it got hot. On Monday evening, I was joking that we might have to turn on the furnace; tonight, I thought we might need the A/C, but the house peaked at 75 degrees, and now we have a cooling breeze coming through the windows.

And on that note, I end tonight’s command performance of Defenestration Corner. Good evening!

Power's back; I am too, sort of

Almaden survived the weekend powerdown just fine, though the climate control in my office seems to have been a bit weird today. And I survived a weekend without Net access — but I’m starting to look for a DSL or Cable ISP that serves my area and does a decent job. Any hints?

It’s going to be a busy week at work. I’m mentoring a new professional hire; on Thursday, I’ll be giving a presentation on privacy at the Silicon Valley World Internet Center Pub (y’all come…drinks are free!); and I’ve gotten started on a small Python programming project to help me deal with NNTP-based services.

And it’s also a busy week at home. This Friday is one of the two opportunities a year we get to throw away more than one can’s worth of junk in a week, and I have a lot of sorting to do. I don’t really have to worry about paper stuff, since they’ll always take an unlimited quantity of recyclables — but this is my chance to get rid of some of the other stuff which I tend to accumulate.

So I don’t expect to be posting much for the next few days.

Opting Out

Speaking of privacy, here are two handy links.

If you want to opt-out of the tracking that advertising networks like DoubleClick and AvenueA do to your browser, go to http://www.networkadvertising.org/optout_nonppii.asp, then click each checkbox and hit the “Submit” button.

And if you don’t like the X-10 pop-under ads which are suddenly all over the Web, go to http://www.x10.com/x10ads1.htm and you’ll be opted out of them for 30 days (it looks like the window still appears, but then it disappears all by itself). [Link courtesy of Dan Gillmor.]

The last of the 5-1/4 inch diskettes

I was doing some housecleaning last night and realized that I had a shelf full of 5-1/4 inch diskettes, but I haven’t had a computer in the house that could read them for about a year. So I tossed them out (I couldn’t think of any way to recycle them).

Out, 1981 taxes!

Out, PC-File!

Out, Word Perfect!

Out, TapCIS!

But I couldn’t bring myself to discard absolutely everything — when we ordered our original IBM PC in 1981 (we got such an early enough machine that it only had 64KB on the motherboard and one-sided diskette drives), we bought three pieces of software to go with it. MS-DOS 1.0, Microsoft Adventure, and VisiCalc. The first two programs are long gone, but I found the VisiCalc diskettes last night and decided to hang on to them for no good reason — after all, I have nothing which can read them! But maybe they’ll be collectables someday.

Offline till Tuesday

I get my Net connectivity through work — my home system is behind the firewall, right on the building LAN. It’s very convenient. But this weekend, Almaden is having its twice-yearly site powerdown and major maintenance — and so my connectivity will vanish when they flip the big switch.

I expect to cope just fine, and hope my silence doesn’t distress any of you.

Have a great weekend, and Shabbat Shalom!

Party time!

If the US were a parliamentary democracy, Dubya would be facing a vote of no confidence now, thanks to Senator Jeffords. Of course, I haven’t had any confidence in Dubya since the first time I heard he was running for President!

After a fun and exciting two-and-a-half hours in the dentist’s chair this afternoon, I drove to the
Silicon Valley World Internet Center in Palo Alto to see what their Thursday Pubs were like. I’ll be speaking there next Thursday on Internet privacy (my title: “Privacy isn’t just the law, it’s a good idea!”) and I wanted to get an idea of the way the audience interacted with the speaker. I learned one important lesson from my trip — I need to be brief. People are there to network and partake of the refreshments; the speaker is there to provide a focus, but not to take too much time away from the real reason people come. That information alone made the trip worthwhile — and the beer wasn’t half bad, either.

A weight off my hip

We’re having one of our periodic “please look at what you’re spending” go-arounds at work this week; I realized that I’d been carrying my pager around for years and years, but that I hadn’t actually gotten any important messages on it for at least the last three months. So I decided I could save the company a few bucks every month by giving it up, and popped it into the mail this morning.

Even though the pager hasn’t done much for me for a long time, I feel almost naked without it — but I’m sure I’ll adapt.

Actually, I had hoped to replace the pager with a RIM Blackberry, but I found that it didn’t fit my work style very well — I saw too much mail twice (once on the Blackberry and then again to dispose of permanently on my computer), and the temptation to look at e-mail for “just a minute” when it was sitting on my nightstand was awfully hard to resist. After the second time that “just a minute” turned into an actual session on my computer, I realized that instant access to my e-mail was probably a stronger lure than was safe for me.

Listening to static

When I was in high school, I did a lot of short-wave listening (and broadcast band DXing, too), and my Mom always called it “listening to static”. I wasn’t sufficiently motivated to master the code enough to get a ham radio license when I was young (I didn’t think I’d be able to put together a station), but in 1989, I fell in with a Bad Crowd here at work and learned enough code to pass a Novice test and got my license — I even convinced Diane to get her license, too.

It was a good thing that we were both licensed when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit, because we were able to talk to each other and find out that we were both OK. Working emergency communications for the next few days was good, too, because it kept me from thinking about aftershocks (of which I’m sure there were plenty, but I was too busy to notice).

And having my ham license got me interested in TCP/IP (running TCP applications at 1200-baud half-duplex is interesting — and it makes watching paint dry seem to be a study in rapid activity in comparision). That led to my playing with Gopher, which then took me to the Web, which led to my current job (and at least two promotions).

Not bad for a hobby. But today’s high schoolers are probably less likely to get into shortwave listening as a starting point — at least here in North America. According to Ham Radio Online, the BBC is about to discontinue its World Service broadcasts to North America, relying instead on streaming audio on the Internet.

Listen, Ma — no static!

Culture Alert!

I tried to buy our seats over the Web, but couldn’t get the system to give me a choice, so I called the friendly (but obviously not happy with her job) person at the call center who was far more flexible in providing information; now I’m waiting for the envelope to arrive with tickets for second-row balcony seats.

I haven’t seen the Karamazovs for many years; I still have one of their T-shirts from the show we saw sometime in the 80s, but I’m afraid either it’s gotten smaller or I’ve grown. Maybe Jeffrey will be able to wear it.

With apologies to Erich Segal…

What can you say about a
19-year-old girl who
died?
That she was beautiful, and wrote well, that she loved
basketball and the ocean. And that

she didn’t exist
.

I picked an interesting weekend to spend offline — when I turned off
the machine on Friday, I’d heard nothing about Kaycee’s non-existence;
when I turned it on today and read the

DaveNet
waiting for me in my
mail, the truth was out there.

I don’t know how I would have reacted if I’d been watching the story
develop, or if I’d been participating in the
MetaFilter
discussions; since I came in at the end, I have the luxury of instant
hindsight, and a bit of disconnection to give me perspective. And of course, I never saw anything from “Kaycee” that wasn’t on the weblog, so I wasn’t as drawn in as Al or the BWG were.

Even though Kaycee was a hoax,
I learned some things about myself and about the value of getting the
most from every day by reading “her” story; for those, I am grateful.
I probably wouldn’t have paid any attention to a similar story if I’d
known it was fiction — I don’t watch disease-of-the-week stories on TV,
either.

I haven’t read anyone else’s comments on this topic yet, other than the
first couple of postings on the MetaFilter thread and the pointers from
Dan Gillmor’s page.
Now it’s time to go see what you’ve said already.

What I did with my weekend

We actually had an unusual weekend — we made two visits to the local
temple of commerce (Valley Fair Mall), more than we usually make in a
season. Saturday, after spending the morning at Torah Study and
services at Shir Hadash, we couldn’t decide what to have for lunch, so
we decided to try out the new and improved food court at Valley Fair so
we wouldn’t have to agree on one type of food (it’s hard to use the word
“cuisine” on food-court food). Then on Sunday, we went back to buy
Jeffrey some shoes and look for a curtain rod to replace the one in our
bedroom. We succeeded in the first mission, but curtain rods are too
mundane for Valley Fair, and I wound up going to Orchard Supply Hardware
instead.

Saturday, we also saw
Cyrano
at San Jose Rep; it was an excellent
performance (especially by John Hansen as Cyrano). The ending made me
think of Kaycee, in fact — but that, of course, was before I knew the
truth.

Sunday afternoon, we installed the new curtain rod. Boy, I love home
maintenance!

Catching up on missed links

Shabbat. Lo Shalom.

I’m home from Toronto after two uneventful flights. I’m also out of Canadian money, which I guess means I managed my expenses well.

Have a good weekend; I plan to be offline.

Shabbat Shalom.

Energy crisis report

I’ve had CNN on the TV in my hotel room in Toronto most of the time I’ve been here, and it’s been talking about the energy crisis almost all the time; it’s depressing.

There doesn’t appear to be any energy crisis here, but gasoline is as expensive as at home — if I did my arithmetic correctly, $2.01/gallon (80 cents Canadian/liter). I remember when gas in Canada was cheap! Of course, I also remember when Dixie Vim gas station in Richmond had a sign saying “gas is cheap; it’s the taxes that are expensive” and had a breakdown to prove it; well more than half of price (19.9 cents/gallon) went to pay taxes.

I did get one potentially useful pointer from watching CNN: gaspricewatch.com, which lets you search for and tell others about local gas prices.

My meeting today featured full and frank discussions; I think we may actually have gotten somewhere in solving our problems, too. At any rate, there seems to be better comprehension of the issues, and that’s a step forward — it’s so much easier to make progress on disagreements in person compared to teleconferences or e-mails!

Then I went to dinner at Wildfire Grille with some of my friends from Almaden; the meal was delicious (I had salmon, which was excellent), but a bit more pricey than I’d expected. Worth it, though.

Tomorrow, I get an early start so I can get an early flight home. And then I have no travel scheduled for the forseeable future. Right.

Greetings from Toronto, eh!

The title tells it all; I’m in Toronto until Friday morning when I get to fly home.

I brought my own lunch on the plane to Chicago, which was a good decision. One of the flight attendants noticed the Lunardi’s sticker on the wrapping and asked me which location I went to and whether I knew one of the cashiers, Dorothy (who has been there since we moved to Calfornia back in 1984). But that was the extent of the friendly personal service on that flight.

And now I’m here, and it’s time to pretend that I’m tired and go to sleep. I probably won’t have any trouble pretending I’m tired tomorrow morning, but that won’t do me any good, either.

By popular demand….

…at least I think I’m popular with my mother, who asked when I was going to update my page.

We had a quiet weekend, with very little to write about (the computer stayed off most of the time, too), so I didn’t write.

I don’t think we’re likely to be suffering from a rolling blackout tonight; temperatures have moderated nicely, and we’ve got our windows wide open, enjoying the birds, frogs, breezes, and scents from outside. But our power just flickered, so I think I’ll post this while I can!

A blast from the past

One of the side effects of the new federal privacy notification law is that I’m hearing from companies I thought I no longer had any affiliation with. Today’s mail brought a privacy notice from AT&T Universal Card — which I hadn’t used since 1995 when I realized how many AAdvantage miles I could accumulate by switching to American Airlines’ Citibank card. So I called them and confirmed that yes, my account was closed — and also found out that they are now part of the Citibank empire.

Tonight, Jeffrey’s school is having its annual Fantasy Faire; this’ll be the last time he’ll attend as a student, though they welcome the community. We started taking him when he was two or three years old, when the pony ride was the big highlight for him. They don’t have the pony ride any more, but I don’t think he misses it.

Hal wishes there were an adult Space Camp. There is! (But you have to go to Alabama to partake.)

Shabbat Shalom!

Space Camp

979 Eugene Cernan's Suit.JPG: This is actually a predecessor to the suit Eugene Cernan wore on a flight; this was a model they used to help him train.The first stop for our team was the Space Suit room, where we got to see the suit Eugene Cernan used as a trainer, as well as some newer mockups.

Then we went to the first simulator — the 1/6th Gravity Trainer, which lets you feel what it’s like to walk on the moon. All of the kids got to try the special steps the astronauts used (the bunny walk, the bouncy jog, and the side shuffle), then four of them got to try them out in the simulator.

Next, the instructor showed shuttle tiles, told how they were made, and demonstrated how quickly they disperse heat.

Then the second simulator, which was used to test to see if Skylab astronauts could exercise by running around the interior of Skylab. Jeffrey was chosen to try this simulator.

980 hamster.JPG: Jeffrey getting ready to start on the exercise wheel.981 hamster.JPG: 982 hamster.JPG: Then outside for a discussion of the way the shuttle is assembled and trucked from the VAB to the launch complex — then back in for the last simulator, the Multiple Axis Trainer, which spins the victim around in several directions at once. Jeffrey had been hoping to get to go on this one, but he’d been picked for the Skylab exercise wheel instead.

Finally, the adults were given bags of freeze-dried ice cream to divide amongst the kids, then the kids got back on the bus and went to school while the adults got in their cars and went elsewhere.

I enjoyed the day, but would have liked it even better if I’d gotten to play, too!

Hong Kong 2001

  • April 25: A few words about the United First Class Lounge in San Francisco

  • April 26: Many words about my flight to Hong Kong, a few words about the Airport Express in Hong Kong, and a few pictures

  • April 27: Wandering through Kowloon and going to Shabbat Services at the United Jewish Congregation of Hong Kong

  • April 28: A boring day at the W3C Advisory Board meeting

  • April 29: Buying a phone, other shopping, and my first ten-course dinner of the trip

  • April 30: The Advisory Committee meeting, a ten-course lunch, pictures from HKUST (including odd signs), and a pointer to the pictures and story of the ten-course meeting dinner at Ocean Park

  • May 1: Day 2 of the Advisory Committee meeting, no ten-course meal, and more talk of shopping

  • May 2: Hong Kong hotel reviews and the opening of WWW10 (with pictures)

  • May 3: More WWW10 talk, another ten-course banquet, and a few pictures

  • May 4: The end of the conference, Shabbat services, and some thoughts on Pirke Avot and memes

  • May 5: Sightseeing at The Peak and more shopping

  • May 6: Hot and sweaty sightseeing

  • May 7: The trip home (only one picture!)

There's no place like work, either!

I’ve seen the inside of my office for the first time in two weeks; I can’t say that I missed it all that much, though it was good to see my colleagues again, even if it was in the cafeteria (which used to be a much nicer place to eat than it is these days).

Thanks to the reliable connectivity from Hong Kong, I didn’t have a pile of unread e-mail awaiting me — just a pile of things to do which I chose to defer while travelling. Wonder if I’ll get them done before my next trip?

Tomorrow morning, I accompany Jeffrey’s class to Space Camp at Moffett Field; I’m supposed to keep an eye on about ten kids and make sure they do what they’re supposed to do. I hope they let me play with the simulators, too!

There's no place like home…

…and that’s where I’m typing this entry. Pardon any incoherencies; I’m trying to stay awake until a decent hour, but it’s not clear my brain is playing along.

At any rate, I woke up at 7am Hong Kong time, giving me plenty of time to pack, eat, and check out before taking the 9:30 airport shuttle to make my 11:55am plane. Oh, yes, and to upload pictures from yesterday — my dial-up connection died last night while I was in the process of sending up my pictures, and I decided to take the hint and go to bed.

Sure enough, the shuttle arrived promptly at 9:30, and we drove east to pick up passengers at the City Garden hotel, about 15 minutes away through heavy traffic. And then the bus turned around and drove to the airport, passing right by my hotel on its way; I can’t figure out why they didn’t start with the City Garden instead of sending us on the loop-the-loop, but the trip did let me make one more shot at getting photos, only one of which panned out — this is the Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter. I wonder what it looks like when there’s a typhoon if it’s this crowded normally!

971 causeway bay typhoon shelter:

We reached the airport at 10:30; I checked in, got rid of my last HK$70 (I had saved HK$50 for departure tax, but United rolls it into the fare; apparently some airlines don’t), and took the golf cart to the First Class Lounge, where I had a quick snack while waiting for flight 806 to be called. We ran a little late, which gave me enough time to catch my breath and relax — next time, I won’t cut the trip to the airport so short.

This time, the plane was equipped with the United Suite in First Class, and I hoped to get some sleep on the flight home. But, even though the seat (5F) did open up so that I could lie down on a flat surface, I didn’t find it all that comfortable; it was plenty long, but not wide enough for me to have a good place to put my hands and arms. Despite that, I’d upgrade again — and I might sleep better on a flight which leaves later in the day, such as flights from California to Europe. Trying to go to sleep just nine hours after waking up is not easy for me, though my seatmate seemed not to have any problem sleeping. I did sleep some, though, but gave up the attempt about 8 hours into the flight.

Just before they closed the door, two women came into first class carrying young babies (I later found out the babies were eight and three months old). One of them took the seat across the aisle from mine, and I have to admit that I wasn’t happy about the idea — I was afraid that the baby would cry the entire flight (not without reason — unbeknownst to us, Jeffrey had a cold when we took him on his first flight…you can guess the rest). But that didn’t happen — the babies were amazingly quiet (the eight-month-old made a little noise once or twice; I don’t think I heard anything from the three-month-old, who was closer to me). About the only disturbance I noticed happened when the women took the babies on a walk into the galley and the flight attendants oohed and aahed — but that was no noisier than when an adult passenger went back to the galley and asked for something to eat.

I forgot to take a menu, so I don’t remember the wines or any of the entrees other than the one I had (filet mignon, which was tasty). Breakfast was more substantial than the second meal on the flight to Hong Kong, but nothing outstanding. They did have Godiva chocolates; the purser (who’d been on the flight I took to HKG last month) told me that they were carrying them outbound from Hong Kong until the supply ran out and suggested I write UA to complain.

Flight time was just under 12 hours, and I was out of Customs 30 minutes after wheels down. The car service was waiting for me, and I was home about an hour later; I’m now waiting for everyone to come home. School should be out in a few minutes, and I suspect Jeffrey will want to see his Game Boy sooner rather than later!

It’s hot here — but much drier than Hong Kong. I took a walk at lunchtime to get some sunshine, and came back only slightly damp; in Hong Kong, I was soaked by the time I’d walked half a block. And there were long stretches of my walk (through a populous suburb) when I didn’t see any other people; that never happened in Hong Kong! And finally, the air here smells of roses and citrus; that wasn’t the case in the urban areas of Hong Kong.

It’s good to be home.

Hot and Sweaty Sightseeing

This morning, I woke up and decided that I was ready to go home, so I called United and changed my flight from Tuesday to Monday. I’m enjoying Hong Kong, but the heat and humidity are getting to me; also, I’d be hanging around by myself on Monday (unlike the past couple of days, when I’ve had friends to travel with). And finally, the Fortune Global Forum starts Tuesday at the Convention Centre; some of the guests include Bill Clinton and the President of China, Jiang Zemin. Protests are expected, and my hotel is conveniently located between the protest area and the conference centre. While I’m sure the protests would be educational, I think I can do without learning what tear gas smells like, so I’m bailing out in the morning.

But today, I still had more sightseeing to do — this time with yet another colleague from IBM. He hadn’t been to Kowloon, so we hopped the Star Ferry to the dock at Tsim Sha Tsui. On the way over, I saw a bunch of people in yellow T-shirts.

956 special olympics:

Yellow, of course, is the colour of the Falun Gong, who are proscribed in China, hassled in Macau, and more or less tolerated in Hong Kong — but they aren’t going to be allowed to protest at the Global Forum; instead, they’re being kept across the harbour in Tsim Sha Tsui. So I put one and one together and figured I was seeing a Falun Gong demonstration in progress.

I was wrong; it turned out that the people in yellow were there for the the Hong Kong Law Enforcement Torch Run on behalf of the Special Olympics. But there were people giving out information about Falun Gong at the Star Ferry dock, and it didn’t look like the police were paying any special attention to them.

958 falun gong:

After our near brush with politics, we turned our attention to the view of Hong Kong island; it was a bright and sunny day, and the view was stunning.

951 from kowloon:

I could even see my hotel (the building just to the left of the really tall building) and the Convention Centre (the low building towards the left, projecting into the harbour).

953 from kowloon:

We wandered around for a while and eventually had lunch at Harbour City (it was air conditioned, which was very important at that point in the afternoon!), then took the Star Ferry back to Hong Kong side; I couldn’t resist taking one last shot of the Convention Centre and my hotel.

963 hkcec and hotel from ferry:

Then my friend took off for the south side of Hong Kong, but I was wiped and decided to go back to my room and cool off. Here’s what the Star Ferry and dock looked from the 36th floor.

965 ferry dock from room:

After cooling off for a while, I decided to make one last shopping trip, this time to Times Square, a less-touristy spot at Causeway Bay. Like the Times Square in New York, there’s a Jumbotron to entertain the crowds.

968 times square:

I think this Times Square has more shopping opportunities than the one in New York; I poked around for a while, but the sheer magnitude of the place defeated me. The 9th floor, with ten or fifteen different electronics places, truly impressed me. Anyone who thinks Americans like to shop has never been to Hong Kong.

And now this American has to pack. I have resisted the temptation to buy another suitcase; it’s time to find out if that was a wise decision or not.

Hong Kong Saturday

I started the day with a trip to the health club at the Grand Hyatt (the Hyatt and the Renaissance share some facilities, which seems odd to me, but who am I to argue?). I was already hot and sweaty by the time I got there, but I persevered and actually spent some time exercising. Then it was back to the room to recuperate before taking off for a long day’s sightseeing and shopping.

I spent the day with a friend from the conference; since today was sunny, we decided to make the trip to The Peak [Caution! Page has horrible sound effects which start automatically!] and see if the view was worth the trek. And because today was hot, we decided to take the Peak Tram rather than walking up the 373 meters and thousands of steps.

Both decisions were good. But before we got to the Peak Tram, we took a regular surface tram route along Johnson Road, passing streets like this one:

927 from tram:

And then we ducked into The Landmark (expensive shopping centre) to grab a quick cold soda at Pizza Hut to fortify us for the trip to the Peak Tram. A few minutes later, we were on the tram, and then at the Peak Tower.

935 peak tower:

As is far too typical of tourist spots, the Peak Tower is loaded with kitsch; there’s a Ripley’s, a Madame Tussaud’s, and, of course, tons of tacky souvenir shops. We ignored all of those and went outside to enjoy the view — and the fact that it was a good ten degrees cooler than it was nearer sea level!

The view from The Peak is unbelievable, and I know these pictures don’t do it justice. But here are a couple of attempts anyway. First, a picture of downtown Hong Kong and Kowloon.

941 hong kong:

Here’s the view looking the other way, towards Repulse Bay.

937 back side:

And they’re still building — I wonder how much apartments in this building will go for? It’s on a hill above The Peak and should have an even more impressive view.

936 going up:

But after a while, and after lunch, the siren sound of the city lured us back, and we took the tram downhill.

944 tram:

The tram dropped us near the famous Bank of China building, which looked impressive from The Peak and even more so from across the street.

947 bank of china:

I could also see the Hong Kong Convention and Exposition Centre, where I’d spent most of the week (and where I could have been attending Developer’s Day; I heard later that attendance was pretty light).

948 hkcec:

The rest of the day was spent shopping.

950 no fakes:

And then for dinner, we went to Pasta E Pizza, where the Thai basil on the Pizza Verde was as good as it was last week. I’m going to have to try making that combination at home.

Tomorrow should bring more sightseeing, but for now, it’s time for bed.

Next year in Honolulu!

I had to choose between spending Friday night at the gala Microsoft VIP reception at the Hong Kong Jockey Club at Happy Valley racecourse or going to Shabbat services at UJC. It was an easy choice, and I really appreciated getting out of conference mode and into Shabbat when the service began. As they used to say in commercials, “Thanks, I needed that!”

I brought two of my colleagues from the conference along with me to services (one IBMer, one guy who used to be at Microsoft and is now at a smaller company); there were also several people from California who were on a China tour, and it turns out one of them is from Los Gatos and studies with the Rabbi at Shir Hadash (though she belongs to a different congregation). It really is a small world.

There’s no Torah study this weekend; the Rabbi here just got back from Toronto and is a bit jet-lagged. And he won’t be here if I return to Hong Kong in the future, because he’s going back to Toronto permanently in a few months to take up a position with Kolel, the Adult Centre for Liberal Jewish Learning. Their website looks very interesting and promising, but I think I’ll defer exploring it until I don’t have Hong Kong as a competing attraction.

Friday’s lunchtime keynote at WWW10 was an excellent lecture by Dr. Susan Blackmore of the University of the West of England, an expert on memetics. The lecture was titled “The Meme’s-Eye Web“, and in it she made the point that memes have shaped human evolution, both genetically (by encouraging the developement of brains which were more effective hosts for memes) and, of course, culturally, and that the Web is a wonderful playground for memes. I found her talk very interesting and thought-provoking.

But then during services, we studied a chapter of the Pirke Avot (Ethics of the Fathers, part of the Talmud), as is traditional during the counting of the Omer. This week, we studied Chapter 3, and Pirke Avot 3.18 struck me as a very interesting counterpoint to Dr. Blackmore’s lecture. In it, Rabbi Akiva says:
“How greatly God must have loved us to create us in His image; yet even greater love did He show us in making us conscious that we are created in His image.” I haven’t decided whether Dr. Blackmore and Rabbi Akvia are completely at odds with one another or if they’re both saying the same thing in different ways — but it was a curious coincidence to hear both views within eight hours.

Shabbat Shalom!

WWW10

This is going to be a short entry, I’m afraid, because I’m spending all my time actually attending sessions and talking to people at WWW10 — too busy to have fun!

Yesterday, TimBL gave a keynote on the full potential of the Web, especially how the Semantic Web will lead us there. The slides are on the Web (of course) but I can’t find them.

And then I spent the rest of the day attending sessions as a member of the Awards panel for the conference.

Today, I’ll be at one session in my role on the Awards panel, and then will be spending the rest of the day in the Web and Society track, seeing the fruits of my term as co-chair.

Pictures are unlikely until the weekend, but stay tuned anyway.

Two sessions down

The Web and Society Track has now had two sessions, and both went well, I think. The first was a panel on privacy, which, I’m afraid, came to no new conclusions; the second, which I chaired, was a panel on “The Web and Everyday Life”, which had three presentations dancing around that theme. Again, no new conclusions, but some interesting discussion.

Lunch today was a wonderful piece of salmon, and now in a few minutes, it’ll time for the official conference dinner, which will be an “extravaganza” — which I suspect means another ten-course banquet. Dining out in the US is going to seem so pedestrian after this trip.

Ten more courses

I was right — the conference dinner was, indeed, another ten-course banquet, this time held in the Grand Hall of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, where Hong Kong was officially handed over from Britain to China in 1997 (we happened to be in England that day and watched some of the coverage on the BBC; at the time, I never dreamed that I’d be in Hong Kong, much less in that particular room!).

The room was so grand that I couldn’t take pictures which did it justice; the best I could do was get a few snaps of the acrobats who entertained us between the fourth and fifth courses.

907 dinner:

I outwitted the caterers, though; instead of sitting at a table with vegetarian food, I sat at a “regular” table and skipped the courses with shellfish, so I only had to deal with a six-course meal. In comparision, I guess it was like getting a meal from the diet menu!

Hotel reviews and the opening of WWW10

I’ve tried life on both sides of Victoria Harbour now, and I think I should have stayed on Kowloon side. Last night, I moved to the Renaissance Harbourview, adjacent to the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, where WWW10 is being held. The Marco Polo HongKong, where I’d been for the past few nights, is a little bit on the old-fashioned side (they have metal keys, not keycards — can you imagine?), while the Renaissance Harbourview is tres modern and clean. But the Marco Polo HongKong works much better as a place to stay — or at least it does for me.

At the Marco Polo HongKong, one of my challenges was remembering where I’d stashed all my stuff — the room had a walk-in closet with the minibar, as well as a regular closet, and at least two dressers. At the Renaissance, I didn’t have enough drawers to store all my socks and underwear, and my suitcase is sitting in the middle of the room because there’s nowhere to hide it.

At the Marco Polo, there were electrical outlets everywhere and a hair dryer built-in to the bathroom; at the Renaissance, I can only find one outlet, and it’s not very handy, and of course the hair dryer isn’t built-in either.

At the Marco Polo, they had a switch by the door marked “please save energy” so that you could turn off all the lights when you left, but the air conditioning kept going to fight off the heat and humidity. At the Renaissance, there’s a slot well inside the room where you put your keycard, and that activates the lights and A/C — of course, you have to be able to find the slot in the dark to begin with! And the A/C is not very strong, so it takes a long time to cool down the room. But I’ve already beaten the system; it doesn’t check to see if it has a hotel key; anything the size of a credit card will work, and I have a large supply of such cards with me — the card that I bought to add value to my phone account was perfect, since it had no other use once I’d called Orange to update my account, and it has no information which could be used against me (like a credit card number or frequent flyer number).

My room at the Renaissance does have an enormous picture window, much larger than the one at the Marco Polo — but the view from Kowloon was better. And I liked the neighbourhood around the Marco Polo better than Wanchai — the area immediately adjacent to the Renaissance is sterile, but a few blocks away, you’re in the remains of the old Wanchai (see The World of Suzie Wong for more details).

The good news at the Renaissance, though, is that I get Marriot points for staying here, while nights at the Marco Polo were wasted.

WWW10

893 opening

I’m typing this during the opening session of the WWW10 conference. A tradition in this conference series is to have an opening ceremony which partakes of the local culture, then a local politico officially opens the conference. I don’t remember what local color or politico they found for WWW6 in Santa Clara, but the conferences in Melbourne, Toronto, and Amsterdam had interesting ceremonies, and this conference continued.

We began by having the chair of the conference corporation (Nigel French) and the local politico (Carrie Yau, Secretary for Information Technology and Broadcasting for the Hong Kong SAR) “dot the eyes” of the lions, who then proceeded to get the conference off to a roaring start.

895 jumping lion:

Ms. Yau then gave a brief welcoming talk, and now Tim Berners-Lee is giving his view of the Web and its full potential. I’d already heard versions of Tim’s talk three times in the past week, so I have to admit I haven’t been paying rapt attention to it this time around, but it’s clear that practice adds polish.

Community

Happy birthday, Dave.

Susan, you have my condolences and sympathy on the death of your grandfather. Thanks for sharing the good times like his 100th birthday celebration with us.

Jeff, sorry to hear you’ve been dot-bombed.

Falling Behind

Now that the conference has started, I don’t have connectivity during meetings, and so I have less time to read blogs (not to mention trying to keep up with e-mail from my daily job), so forgive me if I fall behind in keeping up with you for a few days. I’ll keep posting during odd moments — but I’m not betting on many good pictures until the weekend.

Amen, brother!

Joel says:

There is nothing that makes me close a web browser faster than going to a home page that plays stupid background music.

This seems almost too trivial too complain about. If your company home page plays stupid background music, stop it.

I couldn’t agree more. I still remember encountering the AT&T ad on the USA Today home page that made a stupid knocking sound and saying “let me in!” every time you went to the page (including returning from an article); that was the day USA Today fell off my list of online news sources to check periodically (and you’ll note I didn’t provide a link here, either!).

Soul food

Today is the second day of the W3C Advisory Committee meeting. Lunch today was a surprise: it wasn’t a ten-course banquet. Instead, we were treated to a buffet, which was mostly Western foods (there were a few Chinese-influenced dishes, too, such as rice, tuna-fish pasta, the desserts, and, of course, spaghetti). They even had lox (but no bagels); that’s soul food to me!

Last night, I took lots of pictures at our dinner and a show at Ocean Park. Take a look, but be patient; it’s a big page.

Things to buy in Hong Kong

Everyone knows that Hong Kong is an amazing place to shop. Of course you can buy electronics, clothes, and luggage here, but did you know that you can buy ISO 9002-certified water here?

Jeffrey, you’ll be happy to know that I was able to buy something else here, too.

And in case you read the phone saga in Saturday’s posting, I’ve updated it to add the name and address of the shop where I bought the phone and had good customer service.