Technology Travel


Salt Lake City has a nice airport — good view of the mountains, nice places to sit and relax. I had a three hour break there between flights and had a chance to get a sandwich and a beer. When I finished, I realized it was only 10 in the morning, and followed the meal with a large cup of coffee. It was a confusing morning.

As we lined up for our 1:00 pm flight to St. Louis, we noticed a flurry of mechanics around the plane we were taking — one of those small Canadair craft that only seats 70. The Delta folks then announced that the maintenance crew wouldn’t release the plane until 1:30.

We watched through the window anxiously as the crew stuck things into slots in the plane and scanned readings on various hand held devices. I remarked to a couple of folk standing next to me that the duct tape holding the plane together was probably out of date. I also received a voice call from Orbitz warning me that my flight was delayed.

At 1:45 we were getting increasingly concerned that our flight would be canceled — especially when one of the maintenance crew left to get a manual and a group then poured over its pages. I asked the person at the desk what Delta would do if the flight was canceled and he, flustered, said that the plane was full and the only other flight that night was also full — the maintenance crew would just have to fix the plane.

Eventually, I can’t remember when exactly, they came on and said the plane had been cleared. I watched them pull instruments out and then noticed one take a piece of silver duct tape and stick it on the side, just below where the co-pilot sits. We had a nervous laugh at that.

I have one picture of them working on the plane, but I left my USB cable at my mother’s and until it arrives, no pictures. I only took one photo, though, as every time I would take a picture in the airport, security people would magically appear and just sort of ‘hang around’.

When our cramped overcrowded flight full of Very Tall People landed at St. Louis, I went to pick up my bag but it was missing. Oh, no, how could it possibly had missed the flight–I was there three hours early. I went to the office to report it and there it was: it had been sent out on an earlier flight. Another person whose bag was also sent early mentioned to the Delta attendant that this is against the law, because people’s baggage must travel with them. I didn’t care, because I just wanted to go home. When I got home though and opened it, there was a card on top saying that my bag had been opened and searched. Luckily my underwear was clean and safely packed in little snuggy bags.

As for the problem with the plane, just before we took off, the pilot said that an inboard data computer had failed during the incoming flight and that it had to be replaced and a complete diagnostic run to ensure everything was okay. This relieved all of us greatly, and I remarked to the person sitting next to me that it was too bad that this information couldn’t have been given out while we were waiting. Yes, he said, because in the absence of all information, people will make up their own interpretations of what’s happening–an interpretation usually worse than the reality.

Which, since I can’t find a human to connect with at Google about my gmail account, means that I will make up my own interpretation and it is that gmail was cracked recently and somebody deliberately deleted over a month’s worth of emails: from October 9th until new emails started coming in on the 16th of November. As such, I will no longer be using my gmail account for anything but throw-a-way communication. If you want to reach me, use No, I don’t obfuscate my email addresses as this is tantamount to putting a finger into a broken levee to hold back a raging river; it doesn’t stop the problem and only gets your finger very, very dirty.

Anyway, as to gmail: so much for Web 2.0, centralization, and the ‘power’ of applications that are always in beta.

Bingo. gmail was cracked November 17th.

Update: Cracked a few days before, but Google didn’t announce the fact.

Semantics Travel

Google base II

Made it to the airport, despite moose in the road.

First time at an airport since 9/11. Had to unload each laptop in their own trays, my shoes, my coat, and my camera into separate trays (not to mention my two bags). But security was very nice and helpful. And hey! Wireless everywhere!

I’ve been reading some of the more positive reactions to Google, such as Michael Parekh and Burnham’s Beat. Burnham writes:

As for RSS, Google Base represents a kind of Confirmation. With Google’s endorsement, RSS has now graduated from a rather obscure content syndication standard to the exautled status of the web’s default standard for data integration.

First of all, Base supports uploads in RSS 1.0, RSS 2.0, and Atom, not just RSS 2.0. Regardless, saying that RSS is some form of default standard for data integration is the same as saying that we can have any data we want — as long as it fits into a primitive single level hierarchy and can be defined with a few simple attributes. Sure, go ahead: build a data empire on that. When you’re done, I have a nice 25 million row Access database to sell you.

He also writes:

In addition, it should not be lost on people that once Google assimilates all of these disparate feeds, it can combine them and then republish them in whatever fashion it wishes.

That’s true — so do think about this, because you may or may not like how Google takes your data and ‘morphs’ it. And if you decide to host content in the space that Google provides? Note that doing so turns over royalty free/copyright free access to whatever it is you upload.

Oh but I can hear the little soldiers now: Sharing is good! All right thinking people share! I don’t have time to point to it, but you might remember the lesson that the Corante Between Lawyers learned when ’sharing’ isn’t completely defined.

Parekh waxes ecstatic on how Base is going to allow Google to effectively wipe the floor with any and all big companies online:

This makes Google Base kind of the elephant being described by blind-folded folks:
1. “It’s Online Classifieds” and will go after Craigslist.
2. “It’s Online shopping” and will go after eBay and Amazon.
4. “It’s an Online repository for photos, music and videos” and will go after Flickr, iTunes and others.
5. “It’s a way to tag content” and will go after and others.
6. “It’s a way to to put resumes online” and will go after Monster, Indeed and others.
7. “It’s a way to do online photos, music, videos, etc.” and will go after Flickr, iTunes, and others.
8. “It’s a way to back into online databases, potentially word processors and spreadsheets”, and so go after Microsoft.

And so on. The answer is it can be all of those things. And none of them.

And as a bonus for Google, it takes some wind from the sails of all these potential competitors, Web 2.0 or not.

I would beg to differ that this can …be all those things. Even if by some stretch and perversion of RSS we can squish all these things into a syndication feed format (remember syndication feeds?), to define a technology in terms of companies squashed shows an alarming corruption of technology, where tech is now valued based on market share rather than any form of good use or design or even interest.

Regardless, every time I see the glow of gold in the eyes of folks, there’s this little devil that pops up and says, “Eh, time to go to work, Shelley”.

Google Base is centralized. No amount of ‘Google desktop’ integration will change the fact that the Google imprint exists on any and all of this metadata. If Base folds, so does your data. This is the wrong approach to take.

Even if we can store our metadata locally and upload to Base, trying to shove all the world in a little bitty syndication feed box shows that we’re not even interested in stretching ourselves into a world of really rich data. We’re willing to settle for tags, more tags, and maybe a title or two. Is this what we see for the bright new world of the future of the web?

Where’s the hunger in folks? Is being able to ‘monetize’ a technology all that matters any more.


I think Google Base is a fun experiment, and I’m willing to play a little. It will be interesting to see the directory, especially if the company provides web services that aren’t limited to so many queries a day. But I never forget that Google is in the business to make a profit. If we give it the power, it will become the Wal-Mart of the waves–by default if not by design. Is that what you all want? If it is, just continue getting all misty eyed, because you’ll need blurred vision not to see what should be right in front of you.

See what moose do to me? Nothing like a good scare at 3 in the morning to get the creative juices going. See you all in St. Louis.



Danny Ayers provides a comprehensive list of semantic web related links for the last week. As Phil Ringnalda wrote in his cruft-free URL post, Danny is an essential source for all things semantic web, whether RDF related or not. I also subscribe to Planet RDF, but am rather dependent myself on Danny for the latest.

Now excuse me while I go light my ass on fire.



Latest update on train:

Estimated arrival: 1 hour and 23 minutes late.

As of the last report at 2:43 pm at Glasgow, MT (GGW), it was running 2 hours and 17 minutes late.

It was a broken rail. Question is, though: what else will happen? But the airport shuttle is 90.00. Sh*t. Sh*t. Sh*t.


Planes, trains, and automobiles

I head back home tonight. There’s a movie titled, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles with Steve Martin as a man wanting to spend Thanksgiving with his family. Though I hope my trip does not emulate his, I can easily borrow the title for mine:

I catch the train from Sandpoint, Idaho to Spokane tonight at 11:49pm. According to the train tracker:

As of the last report at 10:41 am between Stanley, ND (STN) and Williston, ND (WTN), it was running 14 minutes late.

I get into Spokane at 1:50am if all is well. I then grab a taxi to the airport, in a city notorious for cabs with duct taped doors.

I get to the airport hopefully by 3:00am, check in, go through security with two laptops, and a camera with lenses–each of which, along with my shoes, will have to be investigated for bombs or other WMD.

*My flight leaves for Salt Lake City at 6:45 am, on board Delta, just one of the many American airline companies in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. I wish I could remember where I read about one person’s experience flying, where the captain’s end of flight announcement was, “Thank you for choosing our bankrupt airline over others.”

I get to Salt Lake City at 9:45 MST, and spend three hours exploring the airport, including its art collection. I contemplate taking photographs of the airport. I then remember the general American paranoia associated with our airports, and most likely refrain.

I depart SLC at 1:00MST on a flight run by a Delta subsidiary, which was just sold to another airline.

I arrive in St. Louis at around 5 in the afternoon, when roommate picks me up.

At 6, I hug Zoë.

Thanks to Phil, the quote from the bankrupt airline pilot is from

“We realize you had a choice betwen several bankrupt airlines to fly today, and we thank you for choosing our bankrupt airline.”

A Delta Airlines pilot