Time travel to SF 2000

Holy cow! Back in August 2000, I linked to three videos that a nice guy named Beto made when he came to visit us at Pyra HQ in San Francisco (in March 2000). Sadly, the links stopped working after some time, the site was gone, and Beto seemed to have disappeared from the web. I kicked myself for not having saved copies of the videos.

But all is not lost, because Beto converted his old analog tape to DV and used iMovie3 to create In the Beginning: A Video on Weblogs History! It's a little hard to hear what we're saying, and we're not really saying anything worth hearing anyway (I sound like an idiot. Is that really my voice? Oh my God, I'm never speaking again! Also, this is when I had blonde hair.) Ego aside, it was magical to watch this and brought back a flood of memories, especially the walk down to our basement offices and the arrival of our first real, rack-mount server.

Watch the video [14 MB, Quicktime 6] and travel back to a time when Blogger had ~50,000 registered users, when the whole application ran on a Dell desktop machine beneath Ev's desk, before Blog*Spot existed, before warblogs, or celebrity bloggers, or MovableType. Travel back to a time when Ev, pb and I dreamt of changing the world with a little app called Blogger.

Remembering Manny

When I was in 9th grade I was crazy about basketball so I took a gym class that was entirely basketball. Unlike other gym classes ("Weight Training" or "Team Sports") which involved a variety of physical activities, "Basketball" was pretty much a full-court 5-on-5 pick-up game every class. I remember the first day changing into my high tops, pulling up my knee socks, and heading out of the girls' locker room, excited to play. As the class came together, my enthusiasm was quickly replaced with intimidation. I was the shortest. I was the youngest. I was certainly the slowest. And I was the only girl in a room full of boys. Why oh why didn't I take one of the other gym classes? I thought.

But I loved basketball too much to chicken out, and we took the court and started playing. I was jostled, elbowed, stepped on, and ignored. I couldn't grab any rebounds and no one passed to me. Pretty soon I took to hanging outside, near the top of the key, alone. No one paid attention to me out there except a lanky sophomore who'd drive the lane and at the last second dish the ball out to me. I had a knack for hitting that outside jumper, especially when I was wide-open.

Soon we developed a nice routine: Manny would drive towards the basket and then, at the last second, pass it back out to me for an easy two. He'd always smile, a great big wide smile, even when I missed. And give me a high-five. And unlike some other people, who share a class with you but pretend not to know you when you pass each other later in the hall, Manny always said "hi" and grinned when we saw each other on campus.

I stopped playing basketball after my freshman year and joined the ski team. Because I was a varsity athlete, I didn't have to take gym, and soon Manny and I drifted down different paths. But I've never forgotten how welcome he made me feel in that class, how he made a fourteen year old girl feel like she had what it takes to be a great ball player.

I wasn't surprised to hear that Manny DelValle moved to New York after college. And I wasn't surprised to hear he became a firefighter. But I didn't hear that until September 12, 2001.

I can still see his smile.

Here come business blogs!

Now that everyone's keen to the blogs (everyone being big M media people), the next wave of articles are beginning to appear. The Washington Post jumps in with, Making Blogs More Than Just What's for Dinner and provides a good look at ways in which businesses can use weblogs. Also there are some quotes from me.

Fresh tomatoes are the best tomatoes

I'm increasingly perplexed by the poor quality of tomatoes when we're in the height (albeit waning days) of tomato season. My lunch today contained tomatoes of such lackluster quality -- mealy and pale pink -- that I was forced to remove them from my sandwich. Which makes me realize that food service companies must not get tomatoes locally, since that would necessitate switching vendors with the timing of the tomato season. Instead the tomatoes must come from a consistent source, probably some farm in California or Mexico, who can reliably offer tomatoes year-round. But what's the point?

This summer I rediscovered the joy of eating a really ripe strawberry in June. I experienced the thrill of the first corn-on-the-cob of the season and the sadness as I bit into my last, knowing that it would be another year before I tasted the sweetness of an ear. Is it worth it to have certain fruits and vegetables year-round when the quality so obviously suffers? Wouldn't it be better to have really delicious tomatoes in a salad or sandwich for a few magic months, and then just let it go? I think of the bad tomatoes, the strawberries in California supermarkets that were large but never very sweet, the Red Delicious that are certainly Red but not Delicious, and realize progress isn't all it's cracked up to be. Sure, it would mean eating cabbage, apples, and potatoes all winter, but honest, after today's tomato, I think that'd be preferable.

Tuesday quiz

If Friends final season begins September 25, and Ben and JLo are to be married September 14, and Joey Tribbiani's character will be spun off into a new show called Joey after Friends 10th and final season, which event will occur first: Ben and JLo divorce or Joey is cancelled?

Ashcroft at Federal Hall today

From, there's a demonstration today. I can't seem to find a link to it on their site, so here's the detail from the email they sent. See you there?

WHAT: Demonstration to demand the protection of our basic civil
liberties, and counter Attorney General John Ashcroft, speaking in the
latest installment of his stealth Patriot Act road show.

WHEN: Tuesday, September 9 at 12 noon

WHERE: Federal Hall, 26 Wall Street at Broad Street (next to NYSE)
2/3 or 4/5 to Wall Street or J/Z to Broad Street

WHO: New York ACLU (, New York City Bill of Rights
Defense Campaign (, United for Peace and Justice
(, and 60 other civil liberties organizations.

Beautiful photos

Amazing photos of Antelope Valley, a slot canyon on LeChee Navajo land near Page, Arizona and some others of the American southwest by John Isaac: The American Southwest.

Better late than never

Five or so months ago, Darin from emailed asking if I'd do a little "11 Questions" interview with him. I said, "sure" and then let the message sink to the bottom of my inbox (and by "bottom" I mean it was about 1500 emails above the darkest depths of my inbox, where those scary fish -- with horrible teeth and hangy things in front of their eyes -- live and use bioluminescence to highlight messages that have been there since 9/13/01). Over the weekend, I finally responded and Darin, who inhabits a higher karmic email plane than I, promptly posted my inane replies.

An exciting intern opportunity in NYC

From my friend David at MediaRights comes a great part-time internship opportunity in Manhattan. I was a judge for their Media That Matters film festival and had the privilege of interacting with the great group that is MediaRights. If you apply, tell 'em megnut sent you. Description follows: is looking for two good technology interns. We can offer a desk, great co-workers, and lots of strong networking opportunities. helps filmmakers, activists, librarians and educators create and use social issue documentaries for social change. We also produce a yearly film festival ( that streams on-line, is screened across the country and is available on DVD for free ( At the end of the month, we're launching a new Web site dedicated to youth media distribution (

Shopping for a new Mac?

Here's an incredible deal from CompUSA reported on dealmac: buy a Mac for $999 or more and have no payments or interest until 2005! Available only at retail stores, according to the link, and arranged through a CompUSA credit card. Still, if you can be responsible about your money and pay the thing off before payments start in March 2005, not only do you get it interest-free, you don't even have to pay for it for more than a year! Baby needs a new pair of 12" PowerBook G4! Well, just one will do. If the 12" came with the 1GHz processor like the 15", I wouldn't even be able to type this post because I'd be on the train uptown to CompUSA this second!

No one inspires like Frank

I'm struggling on this rainy afternoon, feeling glum, getting an obscure run-time error on a chunk of code that worked fine until I refactored it. I've gone from loving Java to hating it, cursing it as the droplets fall and the gray hangs heavily all around. All of a sudden, I become aware of the music coming out of my iPod on the office speakers. It's Frank Sinatra, singing Here's to the Losers. It doesn't help.


I finally got around to seeing the documentary Spellbound, about eight contestants in the 1999 National Spelling Bee over the weekend, and what a film! If you haven't seen this yet, I highly recommend it, especially if you're any sort of language nerd and enjoy weird words. It also provides insight into all kinds of American families, from various geographic regions, ethnic backgrounds, financial strata, etc. and demonstrates an intriguing combination of hard work and luck. It was also emotionally uplifting and funny. What more could you ask for in a film? Check it out if you haven't had a chance.

Handy advice for life

Lunch discussion, summarized: don't befriend/work with/love/etc. anyone who is incapable of saying, "I was wrong" and "I don't know."

Geeks vs. Suits

Maciej closed out the month of August with two great posts about NASA and the loss of Columbia: Physics 2, Business Administration 0 and Things I Have Learned About Foam From the Columbia Accident Investigation Board Report. From the former (which leads off with a must-read quote from the Columbia Accident Investigation Report),

Engineers are trained to ask "what could possibly go wrong?". Managers are, too, but they use the phrase with a completely different intonation.

It made me chuckle when I read it, and then I realized the horror of such a flippant question when lives are at stake. Go read Maciej, and not just for this, but because everything he writes is really very good, and his linguistical flourishes impress me to no end.

No extends!

I usually keep quiet during the myriad technology debates that flood certain web circles, preferring to just do my coding and building of things. So when I do dig into some technology or other -- often way after all the geeks have argued and hashed to death some obscure techie implementation tidbit -- I'm shocked to discover just how messed up it is. This week's struggle lies with OPML. I like to think OPML stands for Other People's Markup Language, and I try to be down with that, but in reality it stands for Outline Processor Markup Language and it's a format many weblog-related tools (such as and various RSS news readers) have implemented to make it easy for you to import and export a list of your favorite weblogs. Sounds like a pretty good idea, if only it were actually standard.

Unfortunately OPML has a DTD that says you can extend OPML anyway you want (which is crazy talk to me, a DTD you can change? What's the point?), meaning you can add more elements, or more attributes to your elements. So when someone (me) tries to implement something with various OPML outputs, you (again me) realize that one tool outputs an attribute "url" while another outputs "htmlUrl" and a third "htmlurl" -- all to signify the same thing! Sure, some RegEx can clean this up, but weren't we trying to avoid all that with XML in the first place? Argh! I just want to be able to develop something and have a strong contact defined. Is that too much to ask? No "extends XYZ," no "I changed this" just "this is how you express X" and that's it. Maybe if the format you're using requires you to change it to represent your data, you're not using the right format in the first place.

Which makes me realize that I think some of the problems we've had in the weblog community around formats like RSS and OPML might stem from the fact that we use them in manners for which they weren't designed. But that seems like a topic for another day's rant.

Matt Hamer writes in with more coherent thoughts on this issue:

The DTD (at least this one: *with no modifications* does not allow you to add extra attributes. A document with undefined attributes would not validate against this DTD. I don't want to spend time reading the full spec right now, but based on the comment in the DTD, I assume the spec prose says that you can add any attribute that you want to. The DTD makes it easy to add your own attributes to the outline element, but you must define them by adding them to the OtherAttributes ENTITY. If you do this, you are really working with a different DTD.

The real problem is not with the DTD, or really even with the spec that says, "add your own attributes." The problem seems to be that people are adding information that you (and other people) find useful in *non standard* ways. If 'url' or 'htmlURL' or whatever is valuable information, a standard attribute should be added to the DTD.

Con Ed won't reimburse

You might have heard that you can get reimbursed for food you lost during the blackout, but apparently it's a rumor. According to the New York Daily News, Rotten food? Rotten luck, sez Con Ed:

The utility's policy is to cover claims up to $350 per household when the electricity is zapped.

It even has a form on its Web site that customers can use to claim food losses, and consumers have been E-mailing them around.

But Con Ed said yesterday that the policy doesn't apply to last week's outage, which left millions of its customers in the dark for 12 to 29 hours.

Drat! When I heard, I got my hopes up. It figures I'd recently filled my freezer with all sorts of things only days before the outage.

Moneyball by Michael Lewis

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game Before I left for Nantucket I finished reading Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis and (once again) I couldn't stop talking about the book and sharing its insights with whoever would (or even wouldn't) listen. It was especially cool because my family watches a lot of baseball, so I found I was applying principles as I watched Little League World Series games and even the Sox vs. the A's themselves! Anyway, this was a great book and I really recommend it, even if you're not that interested in baseball. Ev summarizes it well when he writes, "Excellent book about winning by questioning the things everyone knows are true -- and caring about results more than perceptions." Maybe I'll post some choice quotes later, because my copy is at home.

Realizations upon return from vacation

When you cook everyday, you begin to remember how easy it is, and so when you come home you go right to the market and get a lot of food for the whole week, even though it's really heavy to carry home. And when you spend your time breezily passing between houses, stopping to sit at the table outside on the deck (to enjoy a cup of coffee or an early evening glass of wine) you come home and realize how much of every day you pass indoors, trapped within walls, sheltered from the sun. And when you spend hours submerged in salt water, riding waves, and feeling the hot grit of tiny rocks and baby shells against your soles, you come home to discover your shower tastes dull, and you don't feel wet in the same way, and your feet won't go back into shoes not matter how hard you squeeze them. And when you read two-and-a-half books and barely watch TV (except for bits of baseball) and don't touch a computer or a cell phone for more than a week, you return to find that staring at a monitor for nine hours makes you feel nauseous and dizzy and tires your eyes and you wonder if maybe you'll be blind in twenty years from spending your days staring at pixels instead of moors, waves, and stars. And when you catch and grill bluefish for your grandparents' 63rd anniversary party (and also make a chocolate cake) and you look at everyone gathered -- from the youngest at four to the oldest at 87 -- you realize which things to hold close (so very very close) and which to cast away.

Finally back at the helm

Well I had this nice plan of displaying a picture for each day I was out of town, but alas the blackout foiled that. And then I was off on vacation and no computer or anything. And now I'm back, trying to readjust to it all. I can barely type. But I'm very tan.

Summer's bounty

Meg (another blogging Meg!) over at Meg's Food and Wine Page perfectly captures my recent eating feelings:

We modern supermarket-spoiled humans can eat the same hothouse tomatoes and New Zealand apples all year round and therefore can so easily forget to appreciate the immediate wondrous bounty and the immediate wondrous freshness of this time of year. No analysis, no history of food, no fancy cooking or political context -- just the pure greedy immediate joy of eating lots and lots of fresh vegetables. Eating them with intense pleasure because they are going out of season even as they produce, because all this goodness means summer is almost over, and the days of winter squash and potatoes and salt pork are coming again.

With sadness this morning I looked at my ripening tomatoes, wondering how many I could eat tonight for dinner. For tomorrow I'm off on vacation and won't be back for 10 days. I plan many visits to Bartlett's Ocean View Farm though, so that I can continue to enjoy the best of summer's bounty.

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