Thursday, December 27, 2007


This YouTube clip of Oscar Peterson with Nat King Cole says it all. My heart is heavy over OP's passing. I was fortunate to have worked with him, and consider him as more than a colleague, he was also a friend.

He will live on in his music, but his generous spirit, imposing form and warm smile will be sorely missed.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Notes from the United Nations Internet Governance Forum Pt. I

I should know better. Every time I fly 20 hours for something, it turns out to be a bit of a bust. I'm in Rio, attending the IGF which, actually lived up to expectations: It is mostly am exercise in diplomatic circle-jerkery. Ever dog gets his day in court, or presenting.

The very best things I heard all day were from some nice lady from South Africa who envisions a world where all six billion of us have a laptop and connectivity, during the opening session. No thoughts as to why, or what the impact would be, exactly, just wishful thinking. I guess there are people in deepest darkest Afrasia who cannot yet download naked Russian teenagers, or put up a MySpace page alerting their 10,482 friends as to the latest modulations in their mood. Poor sods.

I went to the 'Freedom of Expression as a Security Issue' session (check the link it is SO worth it!!). There were a bunch of Europeans and one guy from Google who used to be a speech writer for Clinton. He got bashed, because of course, Google is now the Microsoft of search. he invited anyone who didn't like Google search results to use another search engine. He also mentioned that the way that they avoid any problems with the Chinese government wanting to grab user names of seditious bloggers as was the case with Yahoo! was to take the brave stance of yes, entering the Chinese market, but not actually offer any blogging capabilities. the 'cake and eat it too" approach.

In a stunning revelation, someone named Jan from the council of Europe arrived at the conclusion that "the more freedom of expression, the more security you have"

No-one allowed for time to actually define what security is, but plenty of time was spent asserting that it cannot in any way shape or form encroach on freedom of expression.

So is security botnets and a 100,000,000 infected user computers world=wide, or is it seditious talk by proponents of Falun Gong

Censorship certainly is odious, but the pervasive thinking of "'open, free unhindered access for everybody in the world, all 6 billion of us, and security should never impinge on the fundamental right to have internet." left me befuddled.

I didn't know that Internet access was a fundamental human right. Now I know: Naked Russian teenagers for everybody!

I had lunch with a Kenyan guy and we agreed that maybe the third world would appreciate it if first they might get a bite to eat and a little education and some health care before the self-righteous West comes thrusting CAT5 at them.

Later in the day, I attended "Promoting Network Security and Constructing a Harmonious Internet" which was a series of presentations from the Chinese government (how I love their titling!!).

It was mostly 'We took down almost 200 phishing sites' (only 400 had been reported to them) and some figures showing a shocking leap in website defacements and zombie nets being set up, all of which are, of course, controlled by pernicious offshore concerns, and no-one from China is involved. They are victims.

As is typical with these events, an investigator-techie leapt up to ask some pointed questions about points of contact, and was given an email address to write to with his concerns. I've seen it countless time at MAAWGs and London action Plan meetings - when finally presented with a rep. from the PR of China, folks tend to get a little excited and think that the five people on the dais (not including the translator, usually a flustered-looking youngish woman) represent but a tiny proportion of the 1,321,851,888 people there, and probably aren't in a position of power to do much.

I'm almost certain the email address the gave out probably won't bounce for at least a month or two.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Distracting, Interrupt-driven Work-life

Prioritizing is difficult these days. Between email, IM, phonecalls, blogs, rss feeds, my addiction to The Superficial and my recent concessions to Facebook and LinkedIn, it all gets to be a bit much.

Everything is an interrupt of an interrupt, it seems. I've heard tell that the CEO at the company where I work, Return Path's Matt Blumberg is thinking of instituting a 'no laptops at meetings' policy which I could agree with more. I have found myself trying to address people engrossed in whatever was on the screen in front of them, and when I try to get their attention I've gotten the typical, dismissive "yeah yeah, I'm listening" response we all utter when caught short. The screen continued to captivate their attention more than the meeting at hand.

Countless 'Driving with Mobile phone' studies have proven we don't multi-task nearly as well as we would like to think we do, I think we all have the egotistical thought that we are smarter than that other person who gets distracted. I watched the free episode of America's Most Smartest Model I got off've iTunes last night makes it quite clear that even the dumbest among us (even those with spectacular breasts) all think they are smart, and everyone else is dumb. Watch it for the puerile bits, take away a philosophical blog post. What can I say?

One on my greatest frustrations is attending MAAWG meetings and looking over a sea of laptops, people busily typing away, clear indication that there is stuff elsewhere that is seemingly more important than actually concentrating and participating in the events at hand. I have suggested a no-wireless policy but that was met with stony silence and an indication that there would be a revolution in the ranks. This, despite companies spending literally millions in having people to represent them at these meetings, which are more communal wireless, VPNed access-back-to-the-home-office-typathons than actual meetings. I mean, why bother?

I read a good piece in the New York Times just now about a counter-revolution to all-on all-the-time (I am torn if I really want an iPhone, which really is so squishy one could have carnal relations with the thing, so I can 'have' (or 'have thrust upon me'?) all my IMs, text messages, and emails available, 24/7). The link is via the blog title above (see, another interrupt!), the money quote is below:

After reading Mr. Ferriss’s recent best seller, “The 4-Hour Workweek” (Crown), Jason Hoffman, a founder of Joyent, which designs Web-based software for small businesses, urged his employees to cut out the instant-messaging and swear off multitasking. From now on, he told them, severely restrict e-mail use and conduct business the old-fashioned way, by telephone.

In what is probably an incoherent, disparate post to begin with, I offer these last bits of spastic thinkery:
  • I was speaking with a kid a while back, he was 'attending' class at Concordia University, my former employer. He had already become cynical as to the quality of where we are heading, his comments were disparaging as well to people who do nothing but email, blogs and IMs in class, when they bother to show up, because classes are also webcast. He had attended classes with as few as 3 people in them, with an enrollment of 50+. Of course, people can IM the professor and ask questions, but it just ain't the same as an actual discussion, now is it? I worry about how well an gaming/IM/text-driven generation will be able to consume things like Shakespeare, or Beethoven, or even this 'longish' blog post.
  • Last year, when I was in Toulouse, France at a friend's place over Christmas, there was lousy connectivity. So it was just me and the computer, a tabula rasa. Not to surprisingly, that's when creative thoughts started coming, and I began to write more extensive think pieces than I had in, well, blush, years.
  • A possibly counter-argument: I recall a former colleague, Anne Bennet at Concordia who would make it clear that your phonecall, a 'real-time interrupt' had better be damned important.She was the very geeky postmaster of the place at the time, and she concentrated on email. But it did mean I got my ducks in a row before calling her. I wonder what doing away with trivial interrupts will do for phone-call content ...
  • My direct boss, Tom Bartel, has a marked and unmissable marked uptick in the amount of work he gets done when he works from home judging by the number of historical emails he gets around to answering. Beyond what I've noted herein, his work life is also driven by 'walk by' meetings, scheduled meetings, and a massive inundation of email from little old me (obviously as well as emails, calls and IMs from everyone else he must deal with); our primary source of communication upon which we rely.
So yes, Matt, if you are wondering (and reading), I am 100% behind the idea of starting with 'no laptops in meetings'. I think I might just shut down IM too, which I understand is one of the banes of the VP & General Manager George Bilbrey's existence, and a technology he uses sparingly, and grudgingly.

I think it might be an interesting experiment to encourage people to work from home one day/week to concentrate on long-term big picture stuff. Although, as a remote worker, there are serious challenges to that mode of travails, too, so work at home should be doled out judiciously, IMO, lest one runs up against the out-of-sight, out-of-mind syndrome I am actively trying to counteract.

Seditious talk from someone working at an email company, I know, but hey, give me a few minutes, or hours to THINK! And maybe it'll lessen the underlying tension that invariably comes from all this ... wait, what? Or sorry, gotta go, my girlfriend is Skyping me. And there's a party about 100 yards down the beach across the street that is begging my attention. Forget this computer stuff!

Surreality In Rio

I just had some of the best Sushi in my life at a little joint around the corner from me at Sushiro Barra will speaking French with a seemingly insane Carioca woman doctor. While listening to U2. I might have dinner with her tomorrow night.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I seem to have done it

hang gliding

Wish me good luck!

No, 'break a leg' won't do! The phrase in Portuguese is "Não merda suas calças meados de voo" for those of youse who don't speak Portuguese.

Jumping off a Mountain

I just placed a call to some guy named Dehilton, located somewhere here in Rio DJ, Brazil.

I asked him to pick me up so I can go hang gliding. Apparently the wind will be good enough in two hours to undertake such a feet. And so, I am going to sit here and wait, feeling not entirely unlike someone about to do something really scary tha might result in their imminent death.

To reassure myself everything will be alright, I reviewed the tale of the Brazilian world-champion hang-glider who was killed a few years ago during a competition. Er, wait ...

So I will capture this on for posterity on digi-cam, and will, of course, schedule time to ... void myself well prior to takeoff. Uh-oh.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

It’s Bwibney, Bwibch!

Wow, that's hawt! The new lips make up for it all.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

If Toots Hibert were dead ...

... he'd be rolling in his grave as fast as Joe Strummer. The Nissan Rogue, a new SUV has a bunch of car commercials featuring the song Pressure Drop by Toots, as performed by The Clash.

I'm not sure what the world has come to but it ain't good. The Clash eschewed all commercial endorsements to their financial detriment during their careers, either someone got really poor or a right lapsed, allowing someone somewhere to pimp them out.

Strummer, a long-time Marxist, would have been sickened. The best art of the commercials is the happy-happy clean early-30's white people driving around in the things - exactly the type, back in the day, the band would have spit on, in true punk fashion.

Punk's not dead? I'm not so sure.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Live Music - is there any other sort?

A friend of mine who is a major Blowie fanatic clued me in on this site with a ton of straming and downloadable bootlegs

Although I already have it I'm listening to the 1976 Bowie Nassau Coliseum concert (recorded a few weeks before the Montreal concert, one of the first shows, I ever saw). 'Station to Station' is worth turning up really loud, as is 'Suffragette City'.

Do I feel old at the moment. My high school reunion is coming up in October (30 years, nah, that has to be a miscount) and I can recall hearing SC for the first time at a dance in the gym.

Wham bam, thank you ma'am!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Stunning film: Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq


I caught this simply flooring film 'Alive Day Memories' on The Movie Network last night. An HBO film, it "features" James Gandolfini doing interviews of soldiers who have returned home from the battlefield in less than one piece.

U.S. viewing schedule
Canadian viewing schedule (with clips)

Bearing the terrible scars they will have for life, these young adults share their pain, joy, suffering, naivety, thoughts and feelings on why they were there, and how they are dealing with their injuries.

An non-partisan documentary, this is not at all what one would expect in a film about the war. Gandolfini infamously pronounced some time ago that he thought the way to 'win' the war in Iraq would be to "reinstate the draft, send 500,000 troops and finish it". The film does not choose sides, whether the war is just, or justified. It simply examines the human results on some American kids, and transcends those banal discussions for loftier heights - humanity, intellect, the capacity to live through tremendous adversity.

This film is heart-wrenching, insightful, poignant and truly a must-see. I can't begin to describe the roll-coaster of thoughts and emotions the interviews engender, but a couple of quick examples:

Crystal, a 24-year old from a small town in the American south lost her foot in Iraq. Her reasoning behind joining the military is infallible in her world - the only way to get out of that small town is to marry up, or sign up. Her friends have 'kids, some of them two or three' and her disdain for that life is palpable. At the most emotional point in her story, the timing of which was obviously intentional, she opines tat she has no time for people who tear up and who pity her. The film crew went with her for her first dance on her prosthetic leg, a weird happy moment which she shares with the world.

Another touching point in the film is when one of the vets comes in to sit for an interview and Gandolfini says simply 'My name is Jim' by way of introduction.

I think a lot of times on both coasts we're so cynical about this kind of thing. First of all, I think a lot of people think this whole volunteer army is just people who couldn't make it in other areas of life and joined for the financial reasons of being taken care of, so to speak. And when you talk to these people, it's obvious that that's not true. These are smart kids. They're intelligent, they're articulate.

And when we talk about loyalty to the country--that they joined because they were angry that their country got attacked--I mean these are the kinds of things we don't hear about anymore. You know, everyone says, "the kids today, the kids today." Well these are the kids today. And we need to pay attention to them. They're not just disposable people.

We need to get our heads out of the sand and wake up. These are our kids over there, and they're getting killed for what we don't even know. We should be proud of these kids who are over there risking their lives. And we should take better care of them.

While his comments are kept to a minimum, as are his questions edited from the film, there are numerous shots of him embracing the subjects after the interviews which verges but never quite gets to the point of being cloying or non-genuine expressions of compassion, concern and support on the part of the 'big Hollywood star'.

A beautiful red-head whose picture is featured on the homepage of the film and whose arm and shoulder were amputated wonders if she will ever find a boyfriend, and is overwhelmed by the thought that her future child might not love her, that she could not hold him with both arms.

I don't feel I can do this film justice in my description, it is a terribly moving experience to play witness to these stories, I can't begin to imagine what it must have been like for those involved in the production. If you don't shed any tears when watching this film, check your chest, you either have no heart or you happen to be dead.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Mailchimps rock for quick terminations of spammers and are funny, too.

I dealt with Mailchimps about one of their customers (they are an ESP) who keep spamming me (they got booted off Constant Contact TWICE before moving their pile of crap to another service). It took MC less than 12 hours to ditch the client. Very impressive, especially since a big name-brand client is always painful to lose, especially for a small business.

So major props to them to have the balls to do the right thing.

Their guy Ben sent me over a hilarious link - it is worth a look. A good company with a sense of humour - nice. And, like Return Path, they have a thing for monkeys. I'd give them some thought if you are looking for a legit ESP.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Yes, but she’s got great boobs

From this week's POPBITCH (subscribe to it, worth the effort).

"Plus ca change... "
The box of hair is back

Things move so fast in the modern world, it's
so nice to find that some things never change.
Take Avril Lavigne. When she emerged back in
2003 we described her as "dumb as a box of hair".
She still is.

Top quotes 2003:
"I'm getting more famouser by the day."

"Sometimes I just stay up and go, 'Hey, I'm not
going to sleep tonight.'" - Avril Lavigne

"Who are Duran Duran? Are they a new band?" -
when asked to present a lifetime achievement
award to them at the VMAs.

Top quotes 2007:
"I am a very giving person. When the hurricane
thing happened, I went to my closet, filled six
boxes of stuff and said to my assistant, 'Take
it to Katrina!'"

"It's important to be thankful, even if you're
poor. I mean, come on, we all have clean water —
well, OK, not people in the developing world."

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Arrivederci Luce

The Greatest cross-marketer in music died today. I'm not a big fan of opera, but it was hard to miss Luciano Pavarotti's impact on music, and appreciate his unmistakable, unmatchable voice.

He, like a few others with rock-solid classical music cred (Yo Yo Ma being another) were able to reach out and make music with popstars, in the dread popular music genre. What makes this tearing down of the classical snobbism so ironic was, of course, that classical music was in fact popular music for centuries; people rioted of the notion ot the Rites of Spring, and the latest Beethoven symphony.

R.I.P. Lucian Pavarotti

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Punk's not dead, neither is email

Some dolt published this press release trying to push their push technology.

"Email is Dead!" - Google elert gadget is Launched

Yeah, well stop the presses. Spam is a problem. We all have our tipping points. Sure, kids love instant messaging and text and the like, but email, as the replacement for the internal memo, and the letter is doing very well, thank you. I don't want to have my notes to my friends come up in an IM window when there is something lengthy to say, and I surely don't want to replace an entirely good meium simply because someone declares it dead for their own purposes of profitting from said 'death' which is entirely premature.

As far as getting instant alerts about news - I have RSS. As far as someone sending me the daily specials, email is also the perfect medium. I can read them when I want, or delete them if I don't. Having a gadget shove them in front of my face on my desktop (which I can barely see for all the documents I save there), well, it is as much of a non-starter as Green Day's cover of the Simpson's Theme which is about as spurious as it gets.

So maybe punk is dead after all (R.I.P. Joey Ramone and Joe Strummer) but email? Please.You wish.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Commentary on the FTC Spam Summit

The following speech was prepared with the intention of using portions of it during the FTC Spam Summit, but CAUCE was not given the opportunity to participate due to time constraints.

My name is Neil Schwartzman. Beyond — as I noted yesterday — representing Return Path Inc. here at this conference, I have a second life, as it were, as the Executive Director of CAUCE in North America. CAUCE is the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email, an email users' rights advocacy group.

I am here today to question. Yesterday we heard how the tenor of the discussion about spam became more mature. How, in the period of time that has elapsed since the last summit, things have developed as an industry.

That may be true, but I question if the discussion at hand here this week is truly a big tent effort.

I see few anti-spammers here. I see only one blacklist operator, and no filtering service providers here. I see no consumer organizations here. Heck, I don't see but one spammer on the panels. I didn't see anyone challenge him during his attempts to cast himself as a legitimate business man, no-one mentioned his attempts to bribe staff at at least one large receiving site to accept his mail, or his efforts to open a school for spammers. Where is former FTC Commissioner Orson Swindle and his "couple of public hangings" when you need him, and them?

I do see my friend and colleague Al Iverson, formerly of MAPS, who now works for an ESP, present.

I do see Suresh Ramasubramanian who does so much for CAUCE in other parts of the world, representing an ISP/ESP, Outblaze, here.

I see Ray Everett-Church, another long-time CAUCE board member, represent the competition to Return Path newly at a company called Habeas. I used to work there, actually.

I see the man who I affectionately and half-jokingly blame for having invented email, Dave Crocker, as a paid consultant for Goodmail, another of our competitors. And Tara Natanson, a fearsome abuse desk minion who now works for an ESP, and Dennis Daymann — he wears many hats, but anti-spammer isn't one of them any longer, per se.

And me. I too have had to take paying work to subsidize my efforts on behalf of consumers.

Of course, all my friends I just mentioned will argue anti-spamming is in the blood and that is darn true.

The fact is, ladies and gentlemen, that the anti-spam community was born out of a frustration on the part of individual mail recipients who banded together. We banded together to form consumers' rights organizations like CAUCE and the now-defunct Spamcon Foundation, and blacklists like MAPS and the Spamhaus Project, born from the decidedly non-commercial notion of a desire to share one person's knowledge with the community of systems administrators who were looking to staunch the incredible flow of spam.

There are the lawsuits trying to shut down those services that protect so much of the Internet. Yet, nary a word about that here over the entire two days.

The marketers in this room need to appreciate that yes, you sometimes run afoul of the DNSBL operators, but without them, I can assure you, you would have nowhere to ply your trade. The email systems would fold instantly without efforts like the Spamhaus block list. Their SBL, their CBL — these are run by volunteers, and given away to the Internet community for free.

This assemblage is poorer for not having those voices contributory to the discussion. Please allow me some brief moments to rectify this as best I can.

For those in attendance here today, please remember, the magic in email, its intrinsic value is not as a medium of transportation of commercial concerns, not of the ability of an advertiser to help someone sell someone else something.

No; think about your own inbox. What is the preponderance of the mail in there? What mail do you read first?

It is the individual communications between colleagues at work, from your friends and those whom you hold dear in your life that are occupying the prestige space in your inbox.

That is the power of email: when you get a little spark, a little lift when an email comes in from a long-lost friend, or yes, your boss (albeit a lift of a different kind.)

I defy any of the advertising concerns here to say that they have content as satisfying and relevant to the life of a recipient as when you see baby pictures from a friend for the first time, sent to you from the other side of the world. My friend in Li Jiang, China — William Lu — recently showed me his second child via his account at Hotmail. How wonderful an experience to share with William and his wife, from my home thousands of miles away from theirs. So thank-you to Hotmail for having facilitated that.

Email is a one-to-one communication that has the capacity to be one-to-many, and it is the abuse of this latter that we are all concerned about.

We are all fighting the good fight, some with different motivations than others. Personally, the cause I am fighting for isn't so I can get a special offer on something, it is so I can write to a friend and have dinner with her in Dublin, or Bejing, or Nairobi, the next time in I'm in town. Yes, I have a lot of friends. And, I have a lot of precious email.

So let us remember that while advertising is important as a business, this discussion the past two days has almost had the tenor of the billboard advertisers at a sports stadium fighting to keep a team in town, instead of the fans of the Montreal Expos — sorry, the Washington Capitols making that same argument. Email is a wonderful, powerful form of communication.

We may all allow marketers into our inboxes as passably acceptable guests, but that is not why we send email, and love receiving it, and the point-to-point communicative aspects is what we must all strive to save for individual end-users of the medium. What was most telling about the Spam Summit was that virtually without exception, the speakers referred to email users as 'consumers'. Sorry, but we decide if we are consumers, we are email recipients first and foremost

The voice of email users, more than 25,000 CAUCE members say we do need and want more and better laws and law enforcement, not band-aids and concessions to marketing concerns. Consumers want protection, and demand it of their elected officials and the enforcement agencies.

Thank you.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

New Toy - A Travel Tracking Website

I heard about this site on the BBC last night, and thought I'd try it out to see where I've been. is very very cool and fun!

check it!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Kevin Dean Video

A buddy of mine, Randy Cole just started pulling together a bunch of short vids; he bought a bunch of vintage horns and got local jazzer Kevin Dean to play them and talk a bit about music, styles, all sorts of stuff. The first one is posted on youtube and is worth a look!

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Challenges of International Travel Pt. IV

When I checked into Park 'n Fly car park in Montreal so as to fly to London, on my way to Dublin, they kinda sorta forgot to send a shuttle, even after I asked them to in a loud voice through an intercom in their deserted parking location somewhere near the airport. They forgot for a full half hour. Yes, I timed it.

I made it to the airport with :50 until my flight. The self-check-in kiosk refused my booking number and the Check-in Lady (after the kiosk check-in barfed back my attempts by telling me to see the Check-in lady) told me I had effectively missed my flight. She checked with her supervisor who confirmed it was too late. Check-in lady then graciously gave me a ticket anyway (ignoring her supervisor) when she heard my tale of woe and Park 'n Fly. Her co-worker ran my luggage by hand to the flight (when they said they were delivering it by hand I was sure that was the last I was ever going to see of my bag, forever).

But it gets better. I trundled through security, got in the line-up to board the plane - and thinking 'much respect and big-up props to Check-In Lady for getting me on the flight', but I almost plotzed when I glanced down at my ticket I saw I had been assigned the last seat on the plane. In Business Class. Check-in Lady whoever you are, I love you.

The Challenges of International Travel Pt. III

My new laptop draws 10 watts more power than my converter (which allows for 50 w vs. 60 w needed), and although the laptop has a built-in converter, I need an adapter from North American to UK pluggery which the external converter has, but the laptop doesn't, to be able to actually plug in a wall socket. The wall socket sitting in front of me in a hotel in Dublin Ireland.

All the adapters owned by the hotel are being used by other quests, and the converter keeps timing out as it overheats ... So ... it looks like I'll probably be off-line until the stores open and I'm able to go buy myself the proper kit. Oh, but here's the thing. It is a bank holiday here today (i.e. a statutory holiday) so I don't know if the requisite stores are going to be open.

Until then, as they say in Irish Slán agaibh

Turns out a few stores were open, but none of them had what I needed. Fortunately the Dublin Tourist Center was open, and I got my fix. I tell you this, dear reader, because I know you are breathless with anticipation as to the next twist and turn this tale will take.

The Challenges of International Travel Pt II

I work for a very cool company, Return Path. They are so cool that when I was invited to speak at the APRICOT conference in Bali, Indonesia as Mr. CAUCE, they agreed to pick up the tab for the hotel, while my accrued Aeromiles went to pay for business class airfare.

But here's the thing. I was supposed to fly Montreal-Los Angeles-Bangkok-Bali.

All except the L.A. Flight was delayed by two hours after I checked in, so they decided to re-route me Montreal-London-bangkok-Bali.

All except that they couldn't do the same for my luggage.

All except that I had called my credit card company and told them my itinerary and when they saw charges in London Heathrow, they figured my card had been compromised, and canceled it.

So when I landed in bangkok, I had no money and no clothes, nor reservations for a hotel. It was like one of those stupid reality shows with no prize nor t.v. crew following me 'round.

It all worked out, I bought a SIM with cash, called my bank with skype off've my laptop, they called back to my Montreal number which was by that point re-routed to my Skype in number in Colorado which is then pointed at my Skype account which was pointed at my new Thai SIM in my mobile, and voila! problem solved. Except I was sick as a dog, and the suits turned out pretty crappy. When I had left home I had a cold by the time I made it to Bangkok it had become full-blown pneumonia.

Bali, of course, was stunningly beautiful,even if the conference was a bust, the guy who organized it changed the day of the panel at the last minute; it was mis-named in the program, and he likes to pontificate quite a bit, so he took up half the :15 I had been allocated (for which I flew 30 hours), yacking on so everyone could hear what he had to say on the subject I had been invited to address. It is like he adds names to panels he runs so that he can draw people in who wouldn't otherwise attend if they knew he was just going to be standing up at the front of the room jacking off for :45, which is what it was, in reality.

Nevertheless, if tropical paradise is what you want, Bali is where you find it.

FOLLOW-UP - of course, the waylaid luggage never showed up in Bali, despite repeated attempts and promises. When i arrived home they thought it might never have left, and I spend an hour or so hanging around the Customs/Lost Luggage place to no avail. Air Canada also lost some luggage for me on the way home, but that showed up two days later.

Time passed, I made other trips and bought new luggage (Swiss Army - it rules!). Last week, a full three months after my return from Bali, the outbound luggage showed up. A cheap digital camera, my external iPod speakers (by Microsoft, bought on the Seattle trip) and my Skype headset were all missing but everything else of no value (underwear shorts and toiletries) was intact. Now I am faced with trying to reclaim the losses. I can't wait!

The Challenges of International Travel Pt. I

Travel is always interesting.

Last October, I was going from Montreal to Toronto to Vancouver to Seattle. Except there was a tragic school shooting in Montreal at the exact time that I boarded the plane. Because there was a period of time when they thought it was a terrorist attack with a bunch of cops dead they shut down the airport just as we were taxiing to takeoff.

So we sat on the tarmac for 150 minutes until the cops shot the idiot who was shooting up Dawson College. Which would have been OK, except they had no food nor beverages the passengers on-board. After about an hour they started playing a movie, which was very, very crappy, but into which we all became engrossed. Then they stopped playing it just before the conclusion of the film, just when we landed into Toronto.

In Toronto, I was told to run to the other terminal where I was assured the other flight was being held (they had told us the delay in Montreal was due to inclimate weather in Toronto (when we landed it ws about as perfect a day as one could imagine), which meant they were not responsible for refunds). I ran like a madman, and whn I arrived at the gate the woman looked at me like I was nuts when I asked where the flight was - it had left :10 previously.

I made it to late at night Vancouver and the airport hotels were full (I was told again by Air Canada that they were not); I ended up staying in a hotel at a casino. I don't gamble.

Of course, Air Canada lost my luggage in the process and there's no better way to show up to a business meeting than in jeans and a t0-shirt that one has been sweating in for hours. Thanks to Nordstrum, my favourite store in the world, that wasn't an issue when I arrived in Seattle a day late.

Speaking of lost luggage, see part two!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Montreal now officially Cooler than San Francisco

Coupla years back local musicians and hang-arounds some got an inspired idea in reaction to the pretentious fake knights jousting in the park on Mount Royal. There was a zombie attack, accounts say there were no survivors. We shall refrain from noting how HOTT Miss Lilly is as a zombie, let alone in juxtaposition to some dweeby knight.

Just this past weekend, San Francisco had their first zombie invasion in Union Square.

Let's review the history:

Montreal = July 03, 2005
San Francisco = May 25, 2007

Way to jump on the bandwagon, guys. Careful getting up on it, Grandma, you don't want to scrape your knee or anything.

Attention people of San Francisco: This is not an original idea ... It makes you look like Johnny-&-Jane-Come-Latelies. Let me speak in a language you can understand: This is as Windows is to Mac OSX. You know, XP in a dress?

Come up with your own concepts for flash mobs. Maybe you should have dressed up like circus clowns or dinosaurs or something, but leave the zombies to the professionals, OK?


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Return Path Got It Bass-akwards!

I've worked for Colorado & New York-based Return Path Inc. on contract for almost two years, first setting up some infrastructure for them in Canada, then on a retainer-style contract, then full-time starting in February 2006 to be the compliance guy for Sender Score Certified. That means I get to turn IPs on and off our whitelist. That means allowing our customers unhindered access to the inbox places like Hotmail, Roadrunner, Sympatico (well, half of Sympatico), our whitelist helps to circumvent spam filtering. If a client's IPs are not up to program standards, I turn them off, and generally speaking their deliverability at Hotmail and elsewhere begins to suck bad about 15 minutes later.

So anyway, after months of discussion and preparation, Return Path International Inc. finally hired me, and although not all of the paperwork is quite completed, yesterday was my first official day of work.

Yesterday was also the first day that we allowed automation to take over the tasks I usually do on a daily basis.

I'm not sure if this is part of the benefits plan, but then again, they also sent me a bottle of champagne as a gesture of welcome, and a hand-written note from the CEO.

I'd take this to mean I should spend the day drunk, but the employee manual seems to frown upon substance abuse while on the job, so maybe I'll wait until Friday night to crack this sucker open.

Bottom line, I can't figure out a company that automates me out of part of my job on the first day of work; talk about a cool place to work!

OK, ok, in all seriousness, RP is a challenging, interesting and intelligent company. I like their attitude; as an anti-spammer my antennae were up for any hint of impropriety, undue influence from any quarter to try to influence me doing my job. Over the course of the past year and a bit, I never once had someone ask me to lay off a client because they were one of our bigger ones. In other words, they walk the walk beyond talking the talk; their ethical stance regarding the purity of the whitelist is appreciable.

And so, I start my first full-time employment since February 2002, with a company that has let me fly to Europe for four weeks, Bali for two (and both while on contract!), and sends new employees a hand-written note and a bottle of booze. How cool is that?

Follow-up: it is nice to be appreciated!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The World Just Shrunk and it didn't cost hardly nothin'

Skype costs me 30 euros/year to maintain a US number, (303) 800 NEIL, for unlimited inbound calls (I also maintain a UK number and on in France so a friend who lives there can call me locally, at least in theory, she never does call).

Anyway, I just put an $8 Thai SIM I bought at the Bangkok airport into my $50 Canadian mobile phone (a Motorola L2 which I paid $100 with $50 in airtime), which I paid $7 US to a guy in Laval Quebec to unlock and works anywhere in the world. The SIM allows for unlimited free inbound calls.

So now, anyone with cheap long distance in North America (and with a calling card you shouldn't pay more than .001/minute) can call me in Thailand for next to nothing.

When my house sitter called to check that i had set it up correctly, all I could exclaim was 'technology is so cool'. These are the times we live in ladies and gentlemen. Interconnectivity for nothing, and nothing to say ...

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The ultimate phishing accessory!

I'd long postulated that phishers and virus makers will hack ISP routers or re-write the hosts.txt files of home computers to divert traffic to counterfeit sites.

Now, it seems there is another possible vector - and it is a duh moment for me that I missed it - home routers.

This article explains in some detail how it can be done, and of course, the ability to log into far too many wireless routers using 'admin admin' as the username password combo is astounding:

Hack lets intruders sneak into home routers
Ability to change the settings of poorly configured home routers could put home networks at risk of serious attack.
By Joris Evers
Staff Writer, CNET
Published: February 15, 2007, 3:33 PM PST

If you haven't changed the default password on your home router, let this recent threat serve as a reminder.

Attackers could change the configuration of home routers using JavaScript code, security researchers at Indiana University and Symantec have discovered. The researchers first published their work in December, but Symantec publicized the findings on Thursday.

The researchers found that it is possible to change the DNS, or Domain Name System, settings of a router if the owner uses a connected PC to view a Web page with the JavaScript code. This DNS change lets the attacker divert all the Net traffic going through the router. For example, if the victim types in "," the request could be sent to a similar-looking fake page created to steal sensitive data.

"I have been able to get this to work on Linksys, D-Link and Netgear routers," Symantec researcher Zulfikar Ramzan said. "You can create one Web site that is able to attack all routers. My feeling is that it is just a matter of time before phishers start using this."

Imagine the possibilities! Without the alerts of phishing emails being sent, this hack can allow phishers to make the change, and sit back waiting for victims to show up. Indeed, they could even send phish with 'wrong' URLS, the actual whitelisted legitimate URL of a bank, which is the diverted by a hacked router to the phishing site. Nice work if you can get it.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Consequences - The Eagle Uprising

Years ago two of the four musicians that made up seminal Brit art-rock ban 10cc left to form a duo, Creme and Godley. They put out an album called 'Consequences' in 1977 which was a rock-opera of sorts, the storyline being about how Mother Nature rose up against her human overlords who were trashing the place. Hurricanes, earthquakes, so on - the stuff of so many movies, and press of late.

While there may be some 'debate' behind global warming and man's role therein (The nice anti-global warming people have hired the mercenaries behind creating doubt as to whether or not cigaret smoke causes cancer to help promote their cause), I think there can now be no doubt that nature's pissed and is coming to foreclose.

First, there was this story of an eagle causing an Alaskan power failure, and now the eagles are attacking paragliders.

I'd say it is either time to clean up our act or face the consequences.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Consumers are well protected [tm] [c] [r]

I was told recently by a representative of a very large ISP that my views, as chair of CAUCE Canada are 'out of left field' and in fact they represent consumers. This, in stark juxtaposition to his trying to evoke sympathy from me when he bemoaned the fact that they 'lost 400 mil in market cap this year, due to government regulation and now we're number 2'

I can see where he must be right; after all, what consumer can't relate to losing "400 mil in market cap" this year alone?? Time to fold up the CAUCE tent, I think, because our interests are being looked after by mega-corporations.

I know I feel better now knowing that there is a patronizing mother out there looking after my interests ...

Monday, January 29, 2007

MAAWG San Francisco

I'm sitting in a hotel waiting for sessions to start for the Messaging Anti-abuse Working Group to start later today. I've attended a couple of these previously, one in Montreal, the other last October in Toronto.

The funniest thing about MAAWG is that it is a confluence of people who look terribly uncomfortable in suits, and people who look way too comfortable in suits, geeks and marketers. And what a natural fit they are.

Here's some pretty pictures of buildings to hold you until I get pictures of geeks in suits.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Killer Bees, Global Warming and Spam 2.0

"Let's face it. We're not changing the world. We're building a product that helps people buy more crap -- and watch porn." - Seagate CEO Bill Watkins

These days, as I have noted previously, we are facing a global crisis regarding the viability of the Internet infrastructure. Zombie networks threaten to overwhelm not only mail servers but actually destroy the connectivity of companies, TLDs, even countries. The bad guys are winning, in short.

But it occurs to me that this, like Killer Bees and Global Warming, the net zombie crisis is the result of the incredible optimism of mankind when it comes to technology. We love to adopt (well, ok, buy) new gizmos that make our lives easier, more fun, warmer, faster and so on.

The problem is the people who invent stuff are quickly over-run by the people who sell stuff, and the people who want to tell you to buy stuff, and we are off to the races.

Killer Bees were the result of African bees being bred with South American Honey Bees to better their honey output. Whoops, the result became meaner, too.

Global warming is, in part (how much is up for debate, admittedly) being contributed to by coal-fired smoke-belching electrical plants, airplanes, cars and trucks, wood-burning stoves, and Argentinean cows farting too much. All that technology that sprang from the industrial revolution has had a deleterious effect on the global environmental infrastructure. We never paused to consider the consequences of what would happen if everyone had a car, a refrigerator, and an air conditioner. Such is human nature.

So too with spam. The original email network was set up so any server would happily, collaboratively mail email to a receiving machine; if your local server was down, no problem, you’d use your neighbour’s outbound mail server, without even asking permission. That quickly became a problem when people abused the communal spirit.

When the World Wide Web came into being in the early 90s, I dragged people into my office and pointed at a screen with a couple of molecules and some text surrounding them. ‘Do you see? This is going to bring the Internet to your Mom’ I exclaimed happily. Well, your Mom is now on the net, and she might even be featured on a MILF site.

So what of Web 2.0? The user-published interactive everyone-has-an-opinion blogo-podo-vodosphere?

I’m having a bit of a debate with the CEO of the company I work for, Return Path’s Matt Blumberg. He thinks that RSS, Pod-and-video-casting are the great new untapped vista of advertising channels. Admittedly, his statements are way more nuanced than that.

I agree that advertisers will try, but I have my doubts if consumers will buy. When I challenged Matt on this, his main answer was relating the notion of consumer distaste of ads being thrust in the virgin territory of Web 2.0 back to the example of the web and email in 1995 when they first became channels of ad distribution, and there was much gnashing of teeth and rending of clothes by end-users.

Quite right, but the naysayers at the time were the real early-adopters of the net – the grey beards. The mass incursion of neophyte users that followed were those who didn’t know a world without any ads related to net content, and they accepted it all as status quo.

To my eye, what we have now is a completely different scenario where consumers are burnt out and fed up with spam, adware, pop-ups, skyscrapers, pop-unders et alia intruding into the end-user experience.

I believe the Web 2.0 technologies will demand more subtlety when it comes to their use as an advertising medium if they are to be successful mediums.

A great example of this are the vodcasts HBO has done for their series Deadwood and Rome, with behind the scenes commentary, cast interviews and the like – basically building huge pop for the shows on a pre-release schedule which then overlaps with the first few weeks’ broadcasts.

RSS – well, that’s a tough nut to crack for advertisers (let me get this out there right away and say I know how the publishing business works; newspapers provide content so you will at the ads, for example, and completely agree with the notion that folks should have to pay to enjoy content, one way or another either by subscription or my advertising underwriting). Problem is, an RSS reader makes it pretty darned explicit what the various articles are and if something looks like an ad, it is likely to be ignored.

So, is Web 2.0 going to be killer app or killer bee? Only time will tell, but I’m thinking mostly the former instead of the latter, and there will be a revolution in the ranks if advertisers take a hammer-down approach to trying to make use of these channels.