a weblog by Schuyler D. Erle

Sun, 15 Aug 2004

[04:37] A Day in the Life of Joe Republican

My uncle Shelley sent me this bit of liberal propaganda, entitled A Day in the Life of Joe Middle-Class Republican, which, although heavy-handed, is also chock-full of either delicious or distressing irony, depending on how you look at it.

The thesis of this polemic seems to be the same as that of Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas?, which is that middle America has been more and more consistently voting for the party with the conservative, jingoistic rhetoric, while completely ignoring the fact that, once in power, that same political party enacts laws that only screw them over further. Because when next election time comes around, the Republican candidate runs on terrorism-this, abortion-that, gay-marriage-the-other, and meanwhile the flavorless pablum that the Democrats have been serving up for the last 25 years in their misguided attempt to pander to the middle, with no emphasis on any recognizable principles of any kind, has left that same middle American cold. And so that American votes for the party of Lincoln, which is also in this day and age the party that brought you Halliburton, Abu Ghraib, and the Department of Homeland Security. And so the Republican wins, in spite of the fact that his first official act will be to bend said hard-working American over a chair, economically speaking. The only times the Democrats emerge from their bland, value-free stupor are under the aegis of a charismatic showman, like Bill Clinton, who sadly couldn't manage to keep his dick in his pants.

Which is probably what prompts Uncle Shelley to write, in a separate e-mail, "OK, so after the latest revelations by the esteemed governor of New Jersey, I have finally figured out the difference: The Democrats lie about making love. The Republicans lie about making war. Pass it on." This I have dutifully done. Thank you, Uncle Shelley!

Sat, 14 Aug 2004

[06:28] Nope, No Global Warming Here.

On the very same day that Typhoon Rananim, the biggest typhoon in seven years, hits China, killing 115, Hurricane Charley, the biggest Gulf storm in twelve years hits the Florida coast, causing untold damage. But, no, global warming isn't, you know, real, or anything.

As it happens, in the process of working on Mapping Hacks - which is what I'm supposed to be doing right now - I had recourse to calculate how many people would be displaced by a 10 meter rise in sea level that might occur if the polar ice caps continue to melt. In Western Europe alone, the figure is something like 40 million people. On the East Coast of the United States, it's another 20 million or so. I haven't done the calculations for, say, Bangladesh, but, if you buy the book, you can follow the instructions and work out the bad news for yourself.

So I guess I should be proud to report that I've cut back on my former major contribution to global warming: I got rid of my car. Not the Mercedes, which died of sudden, catastrophic lubricant failure in January, but the Toyota Tercel station wagon we got to replace it, which died of a not-quite-as-sudden coolant failure the day after our wedding on a celebratory road trip around the North Bay. Jo, being a lifelong city dweller, doesn't drive, and we were racking up a fortune in parking tickets, and the reality is that we haven't needed it, living as we have in San Francisco, just uphill from the Mission, in an area quite well served by public transit. Still, it's been really strange to have driven 90,000 miles in the three years between 1999 and 2002, and now be without a car. Every road trip we've been on since this spring - up to Trinity County for Evan & Gaba's wedding, and to Portland for OSCon - I've fairly begged to be allowed to drive.

(We also went to Sacramento this summer, to see Jo's friend Amanda before she left for her consular post in Baghdad, for which purpose we rented a car because it turned out to be only slightly more expensive than two return tickets on Greyhound. Through some creative bargaining made possible by the folly of Enterprise Rent-A-Car supporting two independent downtown locations within walking distance of each other, we managed to snag a Toyota Prius for the trip, which turned out to be a whale of a good time. The vehicle gets a lean 50 miles to the gallon, and features a shiny LCD touchscreen that, in addition to controlling the A/C and the CD player, offers a significant threat to public safety in the form of an animated diagram detailing the power state of the vehicle, including energy flows to and from the gasoline engine, the electric motor, the alternator, and the regenerative braking system. This is a threat to public safety &c. only insofar as the driver is sufficiently likely to be distracted by the opportunity to revel in the comparative energy efficiency of this vehicle as to at some point take his/her eyes off the road to gaze lovingly at the animated power diagram just long enough for disaster to strike. Mind you, I speak from near-experience. Hey, Toyota, if you're listening, make me a Prius stationwagon, and don't make it godawful ugly, and maybe I'll buy it! If I ever have money again, that is.)

Anyway, my concession to the public weal vis a vis eschewing automobile ownership is bound to be offset somewhat by the international jet setting lifestyle brought on by being married to a woman who is well entrenched in the European Open Source and media arts scenes. On Monday, she leaves for London, and then on Wednesday, we are meeting in Amsterdam again, to attend in rapid succession:

  • O'Reilly's Foo Camp, at the U. Twente in Enschede, Netherlands. I missed last year's Foo Camp in Sebastopol because I was in Europe attending the beer track of the CPAN summit and pretending to myself that I wasn't mostly there just to see Jo again. This year, she got an invitation to the European remix, and her reply took something of the form "I'd be glad to come, but I'd like to bring my husband. Perhaps you know him?" This was followed by a message in my inbox from Sara Winge saying something like "Ah, we forgot you are now Euro by marriage, please come!" Well, I'd be delighted, thanks! Looks like fun.
  • A Locative Media workshop at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, as part of the Amsterdam New Media Institute's summer school program. We were invited to appear in order to promote Mapping Hacks, which I think means we show some pretty pictures, give the spiel about how maps tell stories, and tell people to buy the book. I dunno, I've never promoted a book before. The celebrated psychogeographer Wilfried Hou Je Bek is somehow involved in this event, so I bet it will be cool. No, I don't know what "new media" is actually supposed to mean, either. Maybe I'll get into that in another blog entry.
  • A Locative Media development workshop on some island off Helsinki, sponsored by Marko of Makrolab fame, immediately following ISEA2004. Jo & I are planning to take this opportunity to elaborate and collaborate with others on our cellstumbling concept, which is nothing less than the guerrilla use of public cellular networks for estimating one's location in an urban setting, especially in places where GPS reception isn't so good. This means writing code, I hope, which we will take to Riga, but not before jetting off to...
  • Copenhagen, and then to Djursland, Denmark, for wireless4development, an "international conference and workshop bringing together wireless activists and freenetworkers from around the world" to hash over how to help folks make techology work for the forces of good in places that aren't, oh, I dunno, the Bay Area. This conference will feature cool organizations like the Bhutan Wireless Voice over IP Project. Need I say more?
  • Then we get a couple weeks off, probably to polish off the book, during which time we might try to visit Jo's mom in Altea, Spain, possibly by way of Barcelona. I'm really looking forward to meeting my mother-in-law, particularly as I hope it will illuminate the mystery of how my lovely wife turned out the way she did.
  • At the very end of September, we return to Riga, Latvia, for the last workshop in the Trans-cultural Mapping series, of which the one we attended at RIXC in May was the first. The RIXC folks were good enough to bring us out both times, and put us up, and put up with us, and generally help us out with our wireless/semweb shenanigans, and so we hope to put on a nice demo of the cellstumbling concept this time around. We had some adventures the last time we were in Latvia, which I hope to recount (with photos) in a future entry.
  • Finally, the very day after TCM ends in Riga, I have to scoot back to Amsterdam in order to fly back to good old San Francisco to help Mike Liebhold stage some kind of wireless locative happening two days later for a distressingly high profile list of technologists and business people at the Institute for the Future's Technology Horizons Program Fall Exchange. I'm not entirely sure how this all is going to pan out - we have some great ideas, but the trick will be getting the implementation to live up to our grand visions...

Then at some point I fly back the the UK to rejoin Jo, who will probably hang out there until her visa comes through. I don't even want to get into that subject now or I really will get nothing written for the book tonight.

The astute reader may well be wondering how we manage to afford all this jetsetting, what with neither one of us having an honest-to-goodness full-time job. The doubly astute reader will have further noted that book royalties tend to amount to peanuts in the end, unless you score an international bestseller, which Mapping Hacks is unlikely to truly be, for probably obvious reasons. The honest answer is that I don't actually know. Jo's prestige in some of these circles is such that most of our actual travel (except for actually getting to Europe) will be gratis, which is nice. I think we will manage the rest of it through desperate penny-pinching. I have some interesting political mapping projects coming up, and Jo has similar things waiting for her in London, but it's impossible to tell how things will gel. Keep your fingers crossed for us. More about the job thing in a later post, also, I promise. Now, back to the damn book!

Mon, 02 Aug 2004

[02:50] One Year Later

So my year-long vacation from blogging is over at last. (Actually, I did use my O'Reilly Net blog a few times, but...) For a little while, I didn't have much to blog, then I had too much to blog, and then there didn't seem to be any point. Also, I've supplanted some of the purposes I used to use this blog for with my del.icio.us feed.

A lot's happened. I quit O'Reilly back in November, moved to San Francisco in January, and Jo and I got married in April. All of the wedding photos will be collected online eventually. Being married to Jo is probably the best thing that ever happened to me.

We have been spending our time building interesting political and geospatial applications, most of them online. In particular, we've helped build IndyVoter, a social network application aimed at helping people organize grassroots political campaigns. We wrote a free US address geocoder, which people are already starting to use. And we're working on with Rich Gibson on a book called Mapping Hacks for O'Reilly, which goes into production later this month.

All in all, life is good. Jo and I will probably be fleeing the US for Europe in a few weeks until we get her green card sorted out. Hopefully, Dubya will be re-defeated by then, and the world will be made safe for democracy once more. Meanwhile, I hope to use this blog a bit more at least to keep the still-listening tuned in on our latest escapades. More to come soon.

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Before That
[2010] Jan Feb Mar Apr
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Sep Oct Nov Dec
[2009] Jan Feb Mar Apr
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Sep Oct Nov Dec
[2006] Jan Feb Mar Apr
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Sep Oct Nov Dec
[2005] Jan Feb Mar Apr
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[2004] Jan Feb Mar Apr
May Jun Jul Aug
Sep Oct Nov Dec
[2003] Jan Feb Mar Apr
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Sep Oct Nov Dec
[2002] Jan Feb Mar Apr
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Sep Oct Nov Dec

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