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Back “home”

We made it back to rainy New Jersey late yesterday. Before unpacking, we let some of our neighbors know that we’re planning on pulling up stakes to move to San Francisco. It really starts to hit home when you tell families that you’ve been sharing your lives with that you’re going to be pulling away.

After unpacking and eating take away Chinese, we finally hit the sack around 11 pm. Jet lag set in on the kids with first Julia, then Tyler making their way to our bedroom for some company. After several attempts of telling them to try and get some sleep, at 4 am Izumi turned over to see both Tyler & Julia, quiet as can be, side-by-side between us in bed, staring straight up at the ceiling, eyes wide open. We finally gave up at 5 am and got up to fix some breakfast.

Julia just came by and said to me, “Howya doin'” in a perfect New Jersey twang, I think it’s time for us to move on.

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Head Fake

Psych! We were quietly settling in for our flight (Continental 008) from Tokyo to Newark when the ultra-smooth voice of the captain comes over the IC. Something about an issue with the right engine that came up in the pre-flight check and needs further investigation. The captains cucumber-cool voice continues with something like, “We’ve got the ground crew looking into it right now folks. After they have a look-see, we should be good to go in a few minutes.”

The minutes tick by – that’s fine, I’d rather have them check things out thoroughly rather than have a blow out of one of our two engines on a Boeing 777 go out over the Pacific. After about 20 minutes, the captain’s back on, this time a little more tentative. To his credit, he’s totally up front with the situation and explains that it’s some sort of “blower” part and that fortunately there’s a spare one nearby but it’ll take between (and there’s a looong pause) 5 – 10 hours to replace.

Collective groan by the Americans on board followed by a second one by the Japanese as soon as the translation hits them. The Continental ground crew is still “confident” that they can patch things up in time to get the scheduled 4:20 PM flight on its way before the 10 PM curfew but I have my doubts and make a beeline for the gate agent.

After much collective handwringing in the line with others I make it to the front. Amazing what people will do to get out of a country on time – one woman looking to fly to Hong Kong to catch the midnight flight to Los Angeles and then overnight it to Newark. She comments that she really wants to make it ahead of her group so she can spend time with her sister. I remark that she’s going to be so wigged out after her extended travels she will not even realize she’s with her sister.

I innocently ask to remove the four of us off of the flight and put us on the same flight the next day. The kind lady took our order and then set off on a complicated series of moves to get us seats and then pull our bags off the flight so we could recheck them for tomorrow. In the meantime, the manager on staff scolded her for making such a promise and then slams the gate closed for any future endorsements to the next day’s flight. We were the only ones to make it on.

We later had to re-enter the country (our passports had already been stamped) which involved immigration looking for the fiddly bits of paper they tear out of your passport so they could re-attach the fiddly bits of paper. We then claimed our bags and put them into overnight storage after retreiving a fresh set of clothes and caught the train back to my inlaws. By 10 PM we were bathed, fed, and asleep.

I awoke this morning to see that CO 008 for Saturday was cancelled after all and can only think of the poor souls that stuck it out at the airport for six hours only to be told their flight was cancelled after all. By 10 PM it’s too late to catch a train back to the city for a reasonable amount of sleep especially considering their flight will take off first thing the next morning. I’m also told the hotels around the airport were all booked out because it’s the beginning of Summer vacation for the schoolkids and lots of families were staying near the airport last night, having flown/drove/trained in from the provinces in order to catch early morning flights on Sunday. I thank my lucky stars it wasn’t us stuck at the airport.

UPDATE: I just called Continental to check on our seats and asked what happened to those going on yesterday’s flight. Turns out the took the plane in for maintenance and it will not be ready to fly until 6 PM this evening, two hours AFTER we fly out. I feel like I should be rubbing some genie bottle in thanks.

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Current Events

Scam Baiter

Funny story posted on BBC about a man who got a Nigerian scammer to paint the number 9 on his chest.

We’re jumping on to a plane that will take us all home from Tokyo. I’ll post photos later!

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Office

Lookout Purchased by Microsoft

Surprise, Surprise. Lookout, the Outlook add-in that I’ve been touting for some time now, has been scooped up by the MSN division of Microsoft. They will be rolling in Lookout’s universal search technology into the next generation MSN search technology. Nothing more than vague musing right now but the statements from the Microsoft press release below points to a vision where MSN will reach into your email box and hard disk connecting internet searches with queries on your inbox and hard drive.

This acquisition builds on the range of new and updated services MSN launched July 1 for its MSN Search service. As part of a $100 million investment in improving the customer experience, MSN delivered its most significant upgrade to MSN Search, introducing several changes designed to help give people faster, cleaner and easier access to the information they want. Specific improvements included a new MSN Search home page (at http://search.msn.com/) that features easy navigation to popular MSN services; a new, cleaner look for its search results page that separates algorithmic results from paid results and eliminates paid inclusion; direct access to popular information sources such as Encarta®, the No. 1 best-selling encyclopedia brand*; and extensive performance improvements.

These improvements were initial steps toward achieving the MSN vision of taking search beyond today’s basic Internet search services to delivering direct answers to people’s questions from a broad range of information. As part of this vision, MSN will launch a new algorithmic search engine and a range of other search services within a year. With the acquisition of Lookout, MSN adds additional expertise and technology that will contribute to this vision.

Time to add mentions of “algorithmic search engine” to my clipping profile for news about Microsoft Search.

UPDATE: Anil, looking at the fine print in the revised license agreement, notices that Microsoft is now licensing an Apache product and points to Joel who has his own theories.

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Office

Google as a Gateway

Adam Penenberg writes in his Wired story, Searching for The New York Times, that there is a very real financial incentive for the NYT web site to continue to hide it’s stories behind a subscription wall. A $20 million/year all-you-can-eat royalty agreement with Lexis-Nexis is an awfully hard arrangement to tear up. John Battelle noodles on this idea a bit more and ponders when the attraction of differentiated revenue from individuals, finding stories on their own via Google and other search engines, will outweigh the guaranteed revenue stream from L-N. He also adds:

What revenue stream accounts for the lion’s share of search’s margin? Advertising. That’s a one legged stool ready to tip over. As the search giants become more and more media companies, they must develop subscription services, and because users won’t want to pay for something they already believe is free (searching) search engines will have to figure out a way to become middlemen to paid content. After all, they own distribution, so they should become…distributors. Were they to execute this service in a scaled and elegant fashion, it might be viewed as a benefit – in many cases, subscribers will get more content for less than they were paying in the past (that’s the benefit of volume).

Google as a portal to premium content? Haven’t we been there before? One comment to John’s post points out that this has been AOL’s model for the past 10 years. Yahoo has continually tried to push premium services and could easily bundle in targeted content. Northern Light also blazed this trail but flamed out after a failure to bring together enough content.

There are many ways to get to content and Google is the current flavor of the month. Of greater demand is having a single account that aggregates access fees to each site for a reasonable monthly fee. Why pay nytimes.com and wsj.com separately when you’d rather pay a single bill for unfettered access to these sites and more? Yes, Google has the distribution network but PayPal or American Express might be a better player for a unified subscription account. After setting up unified subscription fees, the next step is working with each of the major content vendors on feeding RSS feeds of their content to the major search engine vendors so that their content begins to move up in the rankings. Portions of the proceeds of the subscription fees could then go to each of the search engine vendors, paid out as a proportion of the amount of traffic they drive to the payment vendor for signup. $40/month sounds about right – we’ll call it a “global media press pass.”

UPDATE: Cory cuts to the chase on boingboing.net

The NYT’s registration system and expiring pages have doomed them to google-obscurity. Wired News argues that they’ve gone from being the paper of record to a Web-era irrelevancy, and all to protect a Lexis-Nexis agreement and to bring in two to three percent of the digital division’s profits.

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Little “t”

Encho-sensei

I’m in Tokyo for the week catching up with the family who has been here for the past month and a half. Earlier in the year, Izumi negotiated with a local kindergarten to see if we could send Tyler (5) to their school for June and July while Japanese schools are still session. I had gone to a Japanese kindergarten when I was Tyler’s age and it did a world of good for my ability to pronounce Japanese so the logic was that it would help Tyler as well.

To a large part, it’s been successful. Tyler has fit right in and learned a little Japanese to boot. I’ll post pictures when I return and can upload them from my camera. He’s off today for a two night trip to the mountains to pick blueberries with his classmates which is a wonderful way to finish out his experience.

The school is affiliated with a Christian church in Denenchofu, about 15 minutes away by car. For the past two mornings, I’ve been walking Tyler to school after getting dropped off halfway by Izumi’s mom on her way to work. Tyler leads the way, explaining all the things he sees on the way to school. As we approached the school on Monday, he pointed down the road to his school, signposted by the, little “t” as he described it. It took a while for me to figure out what he was talking about but then I saw it. The little “t” he was talking about was the Cross, up on top of the building. I had internalized the symbol so much I didn’t see it for what it is, a little “t.”

Tyler with his Japanese school teacher
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Office

Gary interviews Gary

I’m on a plane to Tokyo for a week of time with the family but wanted to post links to a conversation between Gary Price and Gary Flake, Principal Scientist & Head of Yahoo! Research Labs so that I can read it later.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

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Office

Rip-cord

parachute.jpg

Today I announced my resignation from Factiva. I’ve been contemplating a move for several months now and the starts aligned in such a way to open up a door for me (thanks Mie!) at Six Apart, the folks who put out the software that allows me to create this site. I’ve had a good run with Factiva, starting in 1996 with a stint at Dow Jones based in Tokyo, the birth of a Factiva, relocation to the Princeton headquarters, and a two year run at managing the flagship product, Factiva.com. Everytime things got a little boring, Factiva always managed to find something interesting for me to sink my teeth into. A lot of thinking went into this decision and it’s become clear to me in this process that an incremental change of job title is not enough and it’s really time for me to shift gears and jump into a new company.

I made the decision last night to accept Six Apart’s offer and while waiting for my boss to get off the phone so I could tell him of my decision, I strolled down to the credit union to close my account. I was grilled by the teller there for my reason’s to close down the account:

“Why do you need to close your account?”

“I’m transferring (me not wanting to break the news before telling my boss)”

“A lot of people keep their accounts even if they are located elsewhere”

“I’m, err, actually transferring to another company.”

“That’s ok, you can even get your new company to deposit their paychecks here, I just want to inform you of your options.”

“Um, that’s ok, I’m actually going to be quite far away.”

“That’s not a problem, we have electronic. . .”

“No, really, that’s not necessary. I just want to close out the account. . . ”

“OK then, but you know there’s a $5 charge to close your account. Good luck to you.”

Today was a day of telling selective people the news – after the first few, it became easier and easier to broach the topic. I feel like a skydiver who has just pulled the rip-cord and now am reaching terminal velocity for what I hope will be a safe landing – GERONIMO!

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Tyler’s Dinosaur

Tyler's Dinosaur

Three things came together to bring this picture online. (1) Tyler had the idea to draw a picture of a dinosaur, (2) my parents had to buy a digital camera, (3) my parents had to learn how to upload & email pictures.

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Lego Spiderman

spiderman2brickfilm.jpg

Last weekend Dav mentioned that he was so impressed with the quality of the animation these days that he thinks we’ll see animation films will represent a greater percentage of movies released each year. Once you have the models done, much of your upfront costs go down. No actor’s strikes to deal with either.

In what can only be called a milestone for “brickfilms,” stop action films based on Lego characters, BoingBoing.net points to this amazing rendition of Spiderman 2.