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March 31, 2005

If James Bond Were Canadian...

This is from a message I wrote to a friend in Canada the other day.

If James Bond were Canadian...

  • ...he'd be "licenced to ask some very serious questions".
  • ...when he found Blofeld's secret underground lair, you can bet he'd write a strongly-worded report and submit it to the appropriate authorities at the earliest possible opportunity.
  • ...when he had breakfast at IHOP, he'd tip the waiter extra to bring out a bottle of the '02 maple syrup, the first bottling of the season.

March 30, 2005

Live from Baghdad 1

A good friend of mine who's in the defense contracting business has been working in Baghdad for a few weeks now. He has been kind enough to send along updates, partly to reassure me that he's still alive, and partly because he sees and does such interesting things there. He calls his messages "Live from Baghdad", which is a satisfying double entendre. Anyway, he has graciously allowed me to post sanitized excerpts here. From his second message after arriving:

Several days have been surreal. In describing this scene I am not being flip, because I have been on the bad end of this situation, but I have to set this scene that may remind you a bit of Apocalypse Now with Wagner playing on the attack helicopters.

The other day I left the Green Zone with a guy that I work with here, and with our State Department and DoD clients. We need to go to the Baghdad International Airport, to Camp Victory, and to Abu Ghraib where we have warehouses. We need to check on the receipt of 3.2 million rounds of ammunition and some cases of AK-47s.

My friend M is driving our $250,000 level six hard-car (an up armored Toyota Land Cruiser). I am the front seat trigger guy riding shotgun with an AK-47, an MP-5, and a Glock. There are an Army Colonel and a Navy Commander in the back armed with AKs.

We hit Check Point 12 where we leave the Green Zone to head north on Route Irish towards the Airport. The procedure goes like this: The guard waves us through; everyone locks and loads all weapons, all sending the bolts home at the same time; M pushes play on the CD player; and Axl Rose starts belting out "Welcome to the Jungle" and M hits the gas. We're off zipping through and around traffic, heads on swivels.

An IED had just gone off about two hours earlier on Irish when a convoy passed. Our nice hard car is good against small arms fire, and against IEDs that are not too close. But an IED going off as a direct hit tend to knock a hard car over, and then you have to get out and fight on the ground. Not a good thing at all. There are several bridges over Irish and it is very interesting to slam the wheel hard on such a heavy vehicle to come out under the other side in a different lane than the one in which you entered.

We made the trip with no delays, and at mostly 80 plus miles an hour.

March 29, 2005

The Dordogne

While in France, I spent five days in a rented house in Le Coux, a village along the Dordogne. I had been to France many times, but with the exception of one trip to Cannes, it had always been to Paris. This was my first time staying in rural France, and it was wonderful.

The Dordogne region is a patchwork of medieval villages, vineyards, foie gras farms, winding roads, castles, and sites of prehistoric human habitation, including the famous caves at Lascaux.

It had been cold until just before my arrival, when, according to the people I met there, spring apparently magically appeared, making for wonderful weather while I was there -- perfect for morning walks along the trails criss-crossing the countryside.

All my photos from France are available on Flickr here. A few of my favorites:

Maison a Location

The house I rented while there, originally built in the 1780s.

Dordogne Pathway

A pathway near my rented house.

Morning in the Dordogne

Morning in the Dordogne.

Dordogne Orchard

An orchard.

Home Again

I'm back from a little over two weeks on the road -- vacation in France, speaking at a conference in Maastricht, and then a weekend in New York. Much to update. Stay tuned.

March 21, 2005

The Good Guys Win One

This has been covered extensively already (Slashdot, boing boing, AP), but let me be the latest to congratulate the team at Ludicorp, makers of the wildly popular photo sharing service Flickr, on their acqusition by Yahoo, announced yesterday. This is special for me because I served as a member of Ludicorp's Board of Directors over the last year, and thus had the chance to watch closely (albeit from afar) as Stewart Butterfield, Caterina Fake, and the entire Flickr team built something out of nothing.

This is from a message that Stewart sent me 22 November 2003 (I don't think he'd mind this excerpt being posted). At the time, Ludicorp was focused on its social networking game, GNE.

So, I am back & there is not too much to report from NYC...

I would like to talk to you again though -- while there, I had what I think was a pretty awesome idea to leverage the software that we have right now -- maybe 4 weeks of additions and we could have a full blown instant photo sharing site with all kinds of awesome group and social networking capabilities (tentatively called 'Flicker').

For those of you who are software entrepreneurs, this probably sounds pretty familiar. "We have this great new idea! And we can do it in a month!" Goodness knows I've been down that path myself many, many times. The amazing thing was that, after a bit of thought and planning, Stewart and the team actually did it. Flickr went public as a beta site 20 February 2004 -- not much more than a month after work was started on it.

One of the most interesting aspects of being involved (in a small way) with Flickr has been to watch how the team took a space -- photo sharing -- that was considered played out and showed that it hadn't really been done right at all. Ofoto, Shutterfly, and the like had been around for a while, but they were conceived as mechanisms to enable photo print purchasing. Stewart and the team saw Flickr from the start as a open-architecture Web service. Every time they had a decision to make that involved greater or lesser degrees of openness, they chose more openness -- and those decisions led to the creation of an ecosystem around Flickr.

So what have we learned from Flickr? How about this?

Open API Web services + open data repositories = Web ecosystems
Or something like that. Stewart has been talking about this with vastly more authority.

On a more personal note, I couldn't be happier for Stewart, Caterina, and the entire Flickr team. They're smart, they've worked like hell to get where they are, and I can't think of a more deserving group of people. The good guys win one! Congratulations, Flickrites!

I'm Back

After a four-and-a-half week absence, I'm back. Why was I gone? I could point to the 12- and 14-hour days I was putting in at the office for a while there, but I've had those before. I could point to all the travel I've been doing, but I've traveled before. I could point to the fact that I was sick, as sick as I've been in a decade, but that only lasted a week or so. I could point to my vacation, but that was only a week as well (last week, as a matter of fact). I think in the end, I just didn't feel like blogging. I'm not sure why. And since blogging is a hobby, not a profession, if I don't feel like it, I'm not doing it. I'm not sure I'd be blogging today but for some big news (already well-covered) that I'll write about shortly. I can't not write about it, so here I am. And once I'm started, I suppose I'll just keep at it.