Cobra Mark III

The DIY Gifting project

The first five people to respond to this post will get something made by me.

My choice. For you.

This offer does have some restrictions and limitations:

* I make no guarantees that you will like what I make!

* What I create will be with you in mind.

* It'll be done sometime this year (2009)

* You have no clue what it's going to be. It may be something written, some physical thing made, could be anything at all, but I will make it myself. It's entirely my choice what it is. No quibbles, no refunds.

* I reserve the right to do something extremely strange.

The catch?

Oh, the catch is that you put this in your journal as well. If you don't.. You don't get anything.
Cobra Mark III

Dublin Quays

A while back, La Glitz journaled about walking down the Liffey quays, and it prompted me to remember a poem by our late friend, Jude Hamill. I wanted to post it, but couldn't find it, until I finally came across it while packing up my office (today's my last day at Spectrum). So, here it is:


Whose home was that I passed today, on my way to wherever I was going?
From the skeletal remains, can I resurrect, the lives that were lived here before?
Whose chiming laughter echoes still, when a whistle from the Liffey
Lingers in the throat of the chimney shaft; whose tears fell silently, or screaming
To the floor, and, what loves had they who here did stay, as guests or tenants?

Who waited here for dreaded news or joyful;
And was it coffee that they drank, or tea?
How many happy hours spent hogging the fire,
After battling the brazen breeze
As he howled down the quays?

And where are they now?
Six doors down, or six feet under?
Their house is gone and all that remain
Are ripped and dirty forlorn fragments
Of the wallpaper, over which there was
Such disagreement. Put up perhaps,
For the Confirmation or for Christmas,
That now hangs open to the rain wind and air,
Oblivious to the humming and hawing
That plastered it there;
Shielding vainly, with its frayed and flapping
Now unfashionable pattern,
The flue, from the prickling rain.

The angular zig-zags chiselled into the paper.
Shadows of where the stairs once were;
And where, perhaps, someone cried in the darkness
Down a phone-line, or into a bottle.

All that testifies to the dream this once was is that sad, old, embossed covering--
The derelict decay of re-zoned, pre-redevelopment Dublin.
What stories could that paper tell, and who would listen or recall the players?

Their lives, like others, neither enviable nor special
But nonetheless imagined and wondered of today

Jude Hamill
Cobra Mark III

Greetings from Caprica!

Well, not actually Caprica, but the city that plays Caprica on TV: Vancouver. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, you're missing some of the best television around right now, i.e. Battlestar Galactica.) It really does look like a science fiction city from a distance -- all the new buildings are rounded, built using sea-green tinted glass and beige concrete and roughly equidistant from one another. At ground level though, the older square buildings dominate, along with living proof that grunge is alive and well and living north of the border, given the amount of dreadlocked, bongo/guitar-playing panhandlers on the streets.

I'm in town for the UN HABITAT's World Urban Forum, which is pretty interesting: next year, for the first time in human history, there will be more people living in urban settings than rural ones, a shift that will continue for the foreseeable future: Urbi est Orbi. Vancouver is packed with delegates from all over the globe, which might explain why it took 40 minutes to get through the line for passport control at the airport last night, except that it seemed to take just as long to move people through the Canadian citizen line. Vancouver airport is real gem, a truly beautiful structure, an airy and open building, carefully adorned with aboriginal art and water features. Still, there's something to be said for JFK's stainless steel cattlemarket, in that it is brutally efficient. Ever seen The Terminal? The opening scene is pretty much spot on for JFK's immigration control process. The only time it took me longer than 15 minutes to clear JFK immigration was recently, when I didn't have an actual green card, just a stamp in my passport promising that I really was going to get one in the mail, so I spent a bit of time waiting to the approved in secondary processing--but there was no hanging around to block the main line!

Anyhow, that annoyance aside, I like Vancouver: it's very walkable, and all those new buildings I mentioned above are apparantly the fruits of a concerted effort by the city to get people to live in the downtown area, which they did by rezoning office space as residential. Still haven't quite got the hang of the public transit system yet, but I'm getting there. Today was mostly about the opening ceremonies and grabbing as much literature as possible: the real meat of the conference begins tomorrow, and, as anyone who's read me commenting about Terry Pratchet's attitude to urban life can attest, I love cities, so I'm really looking forward to it.
Cobra Mark III

Slowly but surely I get there

Finally getting on the video bandwagon, my first video blog is up. It's about the Toy Fair here in New York, which is not as bizzare as some conferences I've been to recently, but if you're interested in robots, especially Lego Mindstorms, it's worth a click.

It's actually the second video piece I've made for the magazine -- the first piece will go up to accompany a product review in May -- but I was surprised by how easy it was to put together, almost like the steroetypical movie way of using a computer, i.e. bunch of raw material over here, a bit of re-arranging there and presto! iMovie (and iLife) rocks, and it looks like the magazine will stump up for an office camcorder and tripod purchase so I can stop borrowing Annie's kit. It's all part of the new Internet-driven journalism -- being a text person just doesn't cut it any more, you're got be to able to cough up audio/radio and video stuff as well, meaning that where I used to be able to somewere with just a notebook and tape recorder, I can now end up dragging a digital recorder, fancy microphone, still digital camera, camcorder, and tripod along, not to mention the accompanying supplies... Still, video is a lot of fun, and I'm looking forward to doing more.
Cobra Mark III


NYC's Biggest snowstorm on record this weekend--over two feet--, but the city seems to have handled it pretty well, with little in the way of stopped subways, multicar pileups or power outages and so on. I did a little snow shoveling, helped immenensely by the guy who attached a snow plow to the ATV he was obviously very proud of and used it to drive up and down the Court St. sidewalks. I can't help but be reminded of Ireland's Big Snow in the 1980's, and how was the coolest thing ever, because just for once we had proper snow just like on TV, instead of the usual piddling inch or two that was barely enough to make a snowman before the rain came. Can anyone remember exactly what year that was?
Cobra Mark III

Strike City

The Transist Workers Union went out on strike this morning at 3 am. What this means is: no buses, no subway, and 7-plus million passengers trying to figure out how to make their lives work in the absence of one of the key systems that makes NYC tick. In fact, so strong is this effort, that it can lead to rapid cultural evolution. In the last strike, in 1980, the humble sneaker was pushed to center-stage, and hasn't really left since. This time around, if the strike lasts any time at all, I think it'll be the tipping point for telecommuting. True, a lot of people telecommute now, but its definitely seen as a poor substitute for actually being in the office for many workers. My bet is that a long strike will push people to really use the tools for remote collaboration, and their demand will provide an incentive to improve those tools in the longer run.

As for me, I'm leaving for North Carolina for Christmas, and hopefully all will be sorted out by the time I get back. That is, assuming I can get to the airport in time...
Cobra Mark III

What on Earth?

Something has been tapping on my windows at odd intervals, and it's gone before I can turn around and see what it is, so it's nothing big like a pigeon, who don't fly up this way anyway. This wouldn't be a huge deal, except that I'm on the 17th floor. Edgar Allen Poe would be proud...