2009-10-11

Welcome to the Wooooorld of Tomorrow



I only got to spend a day or two in Seattle last time I was here, where I said the place was businesslike and getting-on-with-it, and my opinion hasn't changed drastically. There are nutty people here, but they're not nutty in the parrot-on-shoulder bay area way (before you ask, I did actually see a guy with a parrot on his shoulder walking along in Mountain View once), or the I'm-walkin'-heah NYC kind of way. It's an unpretentious kind of nuttiness I can admire.

I don't know if it's an artificially-enhanced thing, but there's definitely a massive gigs scene still here. I wasn't particularly bothered this time round, since 14-hour days were the order last week, but I can see some gigs in my future (I'm going to be back every 3 months or so for the foreseeable).

I got to head to a couple of places this weekend : Pike Place Market and Seattle Center.

Pike place market is reasonably nice. It's a mostly inside/underground marketplace, with everyone from flowers, fish, meat, wood products, art, and obligatory hippie stuff. It goes a couple of levels below ground, but I found the lower you went, the more empty it got. I guess times ain't what they used to be. It's pretty well set up, though, with good parking and most of the stands took cards.


Seattle Center is also decent to walk around. It was the site of the World's Far in 1962, and is a great example of Googie Architecture (or Populuxe, or "Raygun Gothic" if you listen to/read William Gibson). The arches in the picture above don't really conform (unless you look inside and see more shaped concrete than you can shake a stick at), but the Space Needle certainly does. Even the logo for the area is a tip of the hat to the style. I love how architecture of a certain time can directly reflect hope in this way -- this was a future that never happened, and preserving and using it like this is great.

Seattle, on the whole, is decent. It's got weather similar to Dublin (although less changeable and with more extremes), and it's walkable if you like walking (I walked back to Pike Place today from the hotel, on a route I drove yesterday). I didn't get to see a lot of it this time, but I suspect that'll change in the next year or so.

2009-10-07

Everyone is not your friend, sir, now please get down from there.


Had the good fortune, time, and obligation to go to the west coast over the weekend, so I stopped off in New York for a few days. I'd been meaning to since several people I like converged on there, and the weekend was as good a time as any. Clicky the image for some random images from there.

NYC was for one thing quite impressive to go to, but for another quite an anticlimax. Media has presented it as the standard generic city in most fiction -- the Gotham, the Metropolis, with Yellow cabs, city blocks, giant skyscrapers, etc. All these things are so buried in the pysche of anyone exposed to mass media, that to actually be there, get honked at by yellow cabs, walk among giant buildings, etc, didn't even register in my brain.

The subway system also takes away a bit of a city's character, too. Maybe it's just living in Dublin, but other cities with well-developed subway train systems I've been to (London, Barcelona, etc.) all seem to be somewhat robbed of a bit of character, if you can step into one street and emerge unaffected on another, with an indeterminate distance and volume of interest between stops. It feels like cheating when exploring a city, I think. Of course, it was pissing rain most of saturday, so it was mostly spent in two excellent museums, the American Museum of Natural History, and The Met.

All this may seem a bit negative, of course. The city is, however, amazing.

I love how Central Park is slapped right in the middle of it, and seems basically undisturbed.

I love how (as Rob pointed out) New Yorkers seem to think differently about space. To them, the city is an amenity, there to be used and enjoyed. In the AMNH, there were people hanging around the exhibits that clearly were New Yorkers, and this was a place they used and enjoyed often. Same with Central Park, same with The Met.

It's easy for the Irish Psyche to imagine wanting to stay away from tourist-type areas, but New Yorkers didn't seem to be surrendering their interesting parts to the tourists -- there's still a great sense of ownership, and pride.

On Sunday, I took the subway out to Brooklyn to visit T and J, and my cheating-sense was again tingled by getting onto a subway at 50th street, and getting off in a leafy suburb, with the Manhattan skyline off in the relative distance. Brooklyn is from sesame street, it seems to me like a lovely place. People were actually using the parks and amenities, there were people out running, a farmer's market. There were till smallish shops, unbranded. Local coffee shops and bagel places instead of Starbucks and Subway (I'm not usually a mad anti-homogenisation head, but it seemed appropriate in my brain). Their place is amazing, certainly for this city. In contrast to Manhattan proper, its somewhere I'd be actually happy to live. Making a home like that must be exciting.

I spent the Sunday afternoon wandering around the train station (where the last station, Rockaway Park, made me think of an old Ramones song). Hopped on a plane to Seattle, where I've been doing solid meetings for a few days now. Hopefully this weekend I'll get to explore a bit of Seattle.

2009-10-01

(I don't have any invites left btw)



Wave is kind of an interesting idea, once you get it explained to you. I think its biggest hurdle will be with people who don't know what it is. This isn't strictly limited to computer illiterates, of course. I've had some of the cleverest people I know (some are even Google engineers) sit down in front of it for a few minutes and go "wtf is this".

E-mail's been around a long time, and having to say "It's kind of like a re-thinking of email" doesn't really do is justice.

Think of it like this: What are the websites or programs you use every day?

Me, I use a webmail client, a calendar client, an RSS reader, an instant messenger, maybe a few ssh terminals (although I'm part of a dying breed on that one).

This is basically putting them inside a web browser all in one. It isn't right now, but it will be. It's probably the closest thing that's come to a Web-based operating system, completely abstracted from the hardware and with data in the cloud.

It won't get marketed like that, of course. It'll sneak up on you. You ain't seen me, roight?