Tag Archives: history

How we met

Izumi and I have told this story countless times so it’s ironic that I have never posted anything about it here, this place where I post stories to share. When people ask either of us, “So how did you two meet?” This is that story.

When I was living in Tokyo I worked at a Japanese company, Kyodo. My division was with a joint-venture Kyodo had with Dow Jones called Kyodo Tsushin. We sold financial news and market data to banks and financial firms. I was with a group that served Western financial firms so in our group there were some native English speakers as well as Japanese that spoke excellent English.

One evening our group went out for drinks and I struck up a conversation with Izumi who had recently joined our team. I was struck with how she had no trace of an accent and asked her where she learned English.

“Oh, I was born in Brooklyn and went to Montessori school there. English was actually my first language but my parents moved back to Japan when I was seven so I grew up in Japan.”

Thinking that was quite specific but also surprised because her experience matched my circumstances. I mentioned that I too was born in Brooklyn and I too went to Montessori school. We also discovered we were both discovered that we were both about the same age but left it at that.

The next day Izumi came in to tell me that there was a good chance we went to the same nursery school in Brooklyn. She told me that she went home and told her mother that she had “met a Mr. Kennedy who also went to Montessori school in Brooklyn” and her mom immediately asked, “Do you mean Ian? Did he have curly hair?” Izumi’s mom remembered my name, after all those years!

A couple of days later Izumi brought in an old, faded photo of me at her house for her birthday party.

Check out the clip-on ties!

Floored to see this old photo, I then went to visit my parents who live in Japan now and went thru the shoe box that is our family photo album and found this photo of Izumi, at the same birthday party, from a different camera.

White stockings were all the rage in the 70s.

Our two parents knew each other in Brooklyn.

The Japanese have a phrase called “the red thread” ( 赤い糸) which is like this invisible thread that was strung between us, over all these years since we’ve been apart. Within a year of the photos taken above Izumi and her parents moved back to Japan where she grew up and I stayed on the East Coast and grew up there. It was only after 25 years that we came together again, halfway around the world from Brooklyn.

I went back to the photo box at my parent’s house and later found this, our class photo from that Montessori school in Brooklyn. Can you spot us below?

Try now.

Epilogue

We discovered later that there were several other connections between our two families. My father, a restaurant critic, was a huge fan of Izumi’s aunt’s restaurant Marie Claude and had included one of his reviews of her restaurants in his book, Good Tokyo Restaurants.

Furthermore, my parents were eating at an izakaya in Jiyugaoka and sat next to Izumi’s parents. When they struck up a conversation, they made the connection that Izumi’s mom was the sister of Kazuko, the chef behind Marie Claude. While they celebrated making that connection, they did not realize the deeper connection, that they knew each other from Brooklyn at the time.

One final note of symmetry. My father was born on the longest day of the year, Izumi’s on the shortest. I have a younger sister and am the oldest of two siblings. Izumi has a younger brother and is the oldest of two siblings. Both our younger siblings are the same number of years apart from us.

I guess you could say the connection is strong 💪 Happy Mother’s Day everyone!

My Web 2.0 Laptop

When I worked at Yahoo it was at the height of a cultural trend called Web 2.0. The fashion was to put stickers of various startups all over the front of your laptop so people could see how hip you were. I was running into many interesting people so I took a different approach and asked them to sign my laptop with a sharpie instead.

When the laptop started to give out, before handing it back Yahoo IT and took a snapshot for posterity.

Here are some of the names. Click on the photo above to go to the Flickr page that has them tagged.

Rafat Ali
Stowe Boyd
Nick Denton
Caterina Fake
David Filo
David Jacobs
Bradley Horowitz
Guy Kawasaki
Ross Mayfield
Richard MacManus
Dave McClure
Matt Mullenweg
Ray Ozzie
Greg Reinacker
Doc Searls
Deborah Schultz
Kathy Sierra
Bruce Sterling
Chris Tolles
David Weinberger
Dave Winer
Niklas Zennström

Political Theatre

A detailed breakdown of how the Senate health care vote went down in the dead of the evening. John McCain’s mic-drop moment when he went against his party and voted against repealing legislation enacted by his opponent in the 2008 presidential campaign.

Buzzfeed has an annotated blow-by-blow of the historic moment, complete with animated GIFs, “Honestly, it’s like a Renaissance painting with all this drama.”

The Unseen Great Wall

The Great Wall of China

This weekend’s Sunday New York Times features the striking photo seen above, spread over two pages. Most people experience the Great Wall, “on half-day tours from Beijing to the Badaling or Mutianyu sections of the Great Wall, which are 40 to 50 miles north of the capital” but the author of The Great Wall, Our Way chose the road less traveled and hiked along a remote section of the wall further to the North that have been essentially untouched for 500 years.

Time Travel

old-telephone

Leave it to the Lutherans.

100 years ago, on April 22, 1913, the Ladies Aid Society and the First Lutheran Church in Oklahoma City sealed a time capsule which has been sitting under a grill set into the floor of the church. Last month, the Century Chest as it was called, was opened. The contents were in pristine condition and included newspapers & periodicals, a brand new telephone, a straw hat, clothing and correspondence, all in mint condition.

Oklahoma Century Chest

Several letters and objects were addressed to future descendants of local families. Imagine handing your youngest daughter or son the package above and telling them it was from their ancestors and addressed specifically for them.

Further reading:

Google Glass and Time Travel

google-glass-patent

A lot has been written about how Google Glass will be great for those that put on a pair. Immediate access to the world’s most powerful database, push alerts from your closest friends, a voice UI so you can look up directions without having to look down at your phone, a  camera that lets you take a photo and share a moment, all without leaving that moment.

While these are all powerful use cases that are bound to transform how we interact with the world around us, I’m more excited for the capability of Google Glass to annotate the physical world as we travel through it for those that come after us, especially those that can re-experience that world, as we saw it, in context. Imagine being able to take a photo of Notre Dame in Paris today, on a trip with your family and saving those photos with all the GPS data so the photo has a place, on a map, in time. Add a community and you have a series of photos of a place, all taken from different perspectives. This, of course, is flickr’s world map – announced in 2004 under the tagline, “eyes of the world.”

flickr-world-map

 

While a picture is worth 1,000 words, what if you could add more context. What if you could add more text to your photo? Tell a story that shared how this photo, in this place, was important to you? This is Findery.com, a place where people leave notes for each other in space and time. As described in their FAQ,

Findery is made of notes. A note can be a story, advice, jokes, diatribes, information, memories, facts, advertisements, love letters, grocery lists and manifestos. The content of a note is only limited by your imagination. A note can be shared with the world, one to many people, one to one, or only with yourself.

findery

 

Findery and the Flickr Map are compelling maps experiences but imagine how powerful they could be if you could experience them in situ. The mobile versions of Flickr and Google+ get at this with a Nearby feature. This sort allows you to browse photos that are nearby to your GPS location. I’ve used it a few times but rarely is it compelling. Even if the photos are only a block away, they lose their connective tissue.

While Google Glass is interesting as an information capture device, the possibility of a viewing device that can potentially line up photos that are taken at the same place is something that really excites me. Once you have a head’s up display connected to a vast library of GPS-tagged photos you can enable clever overlays that show you not only the space around you but also that same space through time.

Check out OldSF – it’s a completely voluntary effort where two folks came together and took the time to put a bunch of photos from the San Francisco Public Library on to a map so you can browse through them. One of the founders of OldSF blogged about the thrill of overlaying one photos from the past and fading to the present (and back again) where you can basically time travel in real life. It’s a genre called, Now and Then photography most recently cataloged in the site, Dear Photograph

Imagine being able to pull up photos from your past, your father’s past, or your grandparent’s past. Ask Google Glass for directions to the nearest pinned memory and then bring it up in your glasses and be able to see that moment, captured in time, while standing on the very spot the photographer stood. Add voice annotation, capture some audio. It’s that moment that puts goosebumps on my arms. It’s that moment, reliving history, your personal history, that makes me excited to try out Google Glass someday.

notre-damePhoto from Tom

A day that will live in world history

At Pearl Harbor there is an exhibit of the events leading up to the Pacific War. Inside is the original draft of the speech FDR gave to congress on the day following Japan’s attack. The document is a fascinating glimpse into the mind of FDR. Several changes you can see include:

Replacing, “a date which will live in world history” with the much stronger “a date which will live in infamy.”

A tentative attacked “without warning” is struck out. There are theories that FDR did have warning.

Also at the exhibit is the full text of a telegram which FDR sent to the Emperor of Japan the day before Pearl Harbor. In it he says that he is willing to cede what is today Vietnam to the Japanese as long as they withdrew the build up of forces in Vietnam which were gearing up to invade the Philippines, Thailand, and Malaysia (which they eventually did).

There is absolutely no thought on the part of the United States of invading Indo-China if every Japanese soldier or sailor were to be withdrawn therefrom.

I think that we can obtain the same assurance from the Governments of the East Indies, the Governments of Malaya and. the Government of Thailand. I would even undertake to ask for the same assurance on the part of the Government of China. Thus a withdrawal of the Japanese forces from Indo-China would result in the assurance of peace throughout the whole of the South Pacific area.

Find your first tweet with oldtweets

UPDATE: Twitter announced that you can now request a zip file of all your tweets.

Kellan Elliott-McCrea, the CTO of Etsy, has made available an searchable archive of Twitter’s first year of tweets. It’s a fascinating dip into the early days of the service.

The first two tweets from Biz and Ev testing out their new service, twttr is a 21st century version of  the Mr. Watson. Come here, I need you! Check out the timestamps.

Followed 11 minutes later by:

If you were on twttr or as it later became known, twitter in 2006, you can search for your first tweets at http://kellan.io/oldtweets. Kellan writes more about what he built on his blog where he writes,

I think our history is what makes us human, and the push to ephemerality and disposability “as a feature” is misguided. And a key piece of our personal histories is becoming “the story we want to remember”, aka what we’ve shared. I just wanted my old tweets, as a side effect I got all of them.

It’s humbling to look at these early tweets. Like the first, tentative steps of a child. This was before hashtags, before the @sign, before links, it was just text and, if memory serves, most of us were using T9 text entry and sending our blips off via SMS to 40404. We had no idea what twitter would become.

Thank you @kellan for digging up our collective past and reminding us of our earlier, simple selves. It’s amazing how something so mundane has turned into a force that has sparked revolutions and changed the media landscape.

Obvious in Hindsight

Today’s history lesson. Cracked.com helpfully points out that depictions of Vikings with huge horns on their helmets was entirely impractical, if not suicidal.

As for the Vikings, the one single thing we know them for–wearing huge horns on their helmets–isn’t true. They just wore regular helmets, not anything fancy. Here’s some advice: If you want a career in something that requires a lot of hand-to-hand combat, don’t wear anything that’s easy for people to grab onto. This is why when cops wear ties, they wear clip-ons. It’s also why you don’t want something on your hat that is essentially a giant set of handlebars.

Now you know. You can put those silly plastic hats away.