Leaving Finland

Tomorrow I leave Finland, our home for the last two years. It’s always bittersweet packing up, leaving behind an empty apartment, and closing the door on a phase of your life.  Today, on my last night, I am philosophical. To be honest, it was a bit rough and it’s probably best to reserve judgement on this period of my life for a few years when I’ll have a better perspective. When I left Alameda for Finland I wrote, “What we do with this experience and what we make of it is up to us.” Returning to Alameda and re-adjusting to life back in America will be a continuation of our experience in Finland. It is only when you see the familiar changed around you, when you return, that you can reflect on a journey and see how it has changed you.

I think my two kids grew up faster than they might have if we stayed put. On the flip, they experienced things that they would have never, had we not taken the chance. Izumi was ever the trooper throughout. She swam in the frozen ocean and made great friends from around the world. As is often the case, the best in everyone comes out in the final weeks before you have to leave. It was a gamble to bring the family with me. My only wish is that sometime they will look back and say it was worth it.

Push play on both objects below for a homemade music video which takes you through our two years in Finland, from Summer 2009 – Summer 2011.


 

From Moby’s description of the song, Stella Maris.

I’ve always loved the simplicity of early music and Gregorian chants and plainsong. There is just this austere simplicity that I find really comforting. So I was listening to this Trio Mediaeval record and I basically wrote a bunch of string arrangements around their acapella recording and then went to the woman who sang it and said, ‘Oh, is it possible for you to re-sing it to this arrangement that I’ve written’.

I think she was eight and a half month pregnant. So she has this little studio in her garage in Norway, she recorded the vocals, handed the recording off to her husband and then went and gave birth.

Howl 2.0

UC Berkeley professor Ken Goldberg and documentary filmmaker (and founder of the Webby Award) Tiffany Shlain put together a modern update to Allen Ginsberg’s famous Beat Generation poem, Howl (also purportedly written in Berkeley). Yelp exhorts us all to unplug from from our endless quest for the next info-fix and, “power-down and revisit the present tense.”

They practice what they preach and encourage everyone to take a “technology shabbat” from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. I love Berkeley!

They are working on a feature film which was featured at Sundance this year. Connected, An Autobiography about Love, Death & Technology.

Seth Godin on Changes in Publishing

Seth Godin’s is a prolific writer and a champion for the book business. That’s why he wants to save it, but not in a format you would recognize. The Domino Project is a joint venture with Amazon to rethink the way books are, “built, sold and spread.” In a piece written earlier this week, Seth proposes a future evolution for the library (“no longer a warehouse for dead books.”) and librarian (“producer, concierge, connector, teacher and impresario”). It’s a refreshing vision and, I would agree with Seth here, “the chance of a lifetime.”

Trinity College Library, Dublin

The next library is a house for the librarian with the guts to invite kids in to teach them how to get better grades while doing less grunt work. And to teach them how to use a soldering iron or take apart something with no user serviceable parts inside. And even to challenge them to teach classes on their passions, merely because it’s fun. This librarian takes responsibility/blame for any kid who manages to graduate from school without being a first-rate data shark.

The next library is filled with so many web terminals there’s always at least one empty. And the people who run this library don’t view the combination of access to data and connections to peers as a sidelight–it’s the entire point.

Wouldn’t you want to live and work and pay taxes in a town that had a library like that? The vibe of the best Brooklyn coffee shop combined with a passionate raconteur of information? There are one thousand things that could be done in a place like this, all built around one mission: take the world of data, combine it with the people in this community and create value.

We need librarians more than we ever did. What we don’t need are mere clerks who guard dead paper. Librarians are too important to be a dwindling voice in our culture. For the right librarian, this is the chance of a lifetime.

– Seth Godin, The Future of the Library

 

Life 2.0, a movie about Second Life

It’s been years since I have written about Second Life, the virtual reality platform which captured everyone’s attention back in 2006-2007. Lately Second Life has come up again in conversations with colleagues when we talk about the popularity of the 8-bit version of alternative reality games where you build things such as Minecraft. Second Life was also the topic of a conversation I had recently which mentioned the fate of Michael Donelly, the Coca-Cola CMO who was famously ridiculed for his over-exuberance for Second Life as a marketing platform. How soon we forget our earlier trespass.

You’re about to be reminded of Second Life once again as documentary filmmaker Jason Spingarn-Koff is about to premier a new documentary about Second Life in Brooklyn on May 20th.

As you can see from the trailer, Second Life is just part of the film which explores the larger question of our addiction to alternative realities. We all are experiencing how electronics are both pulling our families apart and together at the same time. With the click of a mouse we can all be talking with relatives on the other side of the world via Skype. But, these same tools pull us apart as each of us excuse ourselves after dinner and wander off in to a corner of the house to settle down for a session with our glass display of choice (iPad, phone, desktop, laptop or TV). These are important societal shifts and I look forward to the debate that such a film will raise. The Village Voice calls Life 2.0,

At once a disturbing vision of escape, a cautious portrait of liberation, and an exploration of authenticity and artificiality

Linden Labs, the company behind Second Life, is alive and well but a very different company. A glance at the recent press about the company shows that it’s focused more on using it’s software for training and their Press Release archive reveals they have a new CEO from Electronic Arts and are coming off two-year restructuring process. We shall see if people come back, after watching Life 2.0, for another look-n-see.

Spielberg does Tintin in 3D

Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson will release The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, as a 3D film in December. The posters were revealed today and the first clips are rumored to be online tomorrow.

I was a huge Tintin fan growing up so I’m curious to see what happens to the characters after they get the Spielberg treatment.

UPDATE: The trailer was just posted along with the movie website. You be the judge, does the character animation work for you?

iPhone Tracker Art

Dav Yaginuma, my brother-in-law, exported his iPhone’s location data and, using the open source iPhone Tracker modified the settings to create very fine grained view of his whereabouts. I would have thought an aggregated view such as the one above would give a strong signal to where he lives and works but I guess he is too nomadic to be that predictable.

At best,  the pattern resembles a colony of ants swarming spilled sugar water which, in some sense, describes San Francisco from a distance.

More visualizations like this on Dav’s site, Aku Aku.

I personally think this location data is really useful and describe it more as a feature than a security violation. For those concerned with what big companies know about you, check out my earlier post, Location Traces as Art

Douglas Adams on Location-Based Services

Douglas Adams, the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, spoke to a room full of telecom executives in 2001 and in the middle of pleading with them to improve the call quality along the 101 freeway near his home in Santa Barbara, California, he also included this nugget describing a world that is just starting to be realized in 2011.

The one thing I did get right when I came up with the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy was that it would know where you were and come up with information appropriately, and that of course is the thing that makes the crucial difference to everything in that list above. If every piece of information knew the when of itself and the where of itself, so that the virtual world we created fitted over the real world like an invisible glove, and these devices, which we currently think of as telephones or PDA’s, would be the devices that made that invisible world visible to us. The things which both generate the model and make it appear to us, they become windows from the real world into the virtual world which is everywhere around us.

Of course they won’t be like this, these are just telephones with bits added on, one wire taken away and a few more added to it.

Douglas Adams speech to Mobile World Congress, February 21, 2001

The main use case for Foursquare beyond telling people which office I’m working in for the day is to check the Tips section for a venue to see what the dishes are recommended at a restaurant or sights to see at a museum. Augmenting the physical world with location-specific media is the next big trend. Color.com is doing it with photos. Who will do it with music, who will do it with video, who will do it with links?