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Howdy. I'm Justin Hall, a freelance writer living in Oakland California. I spent much of the last two years living in Japan, researching the social impact of new technologies and electronic entertainment. Now I write articles, contribute to Chanpon, Game Girl Advance and TheFeature.

Thanks for stopping by this old web site.

My memories of


Thus spake:
> misuba on so
> duke on fade to grey
> mic burnette on now we must pack up every piece
> d on love is a battlefield
> craig on let casual encounters go
> Taylor on Before the Road
> Brian on special friends' day
> shady on inverse relationship
> sassafras jane on leaning
> Wendy on rebooting at etech
> Zach on Electric Touch
> sine on New York Night
> JD Lasica on Safe Trippi
> squeek on travel costs
> matt peterson on platform or community
> Dude on Qwesting
> Brian Ruh on Two Days in NYC
> Liz on New York Nightlife

waka waka! by Robin


Photo by: Robin Hunicke

I saw this girl at the Tokyo Game Show wearing these totally rad glasses. I asked if she was a game designer; she said she was just talent, a model, a booth babe sort of. But she looked like a young artist! Quirkily arrayed. I encouraged her to take her funky wardrobe and make some software. Then my disappointment was offset when she offered to let me wear her glasses after I heaped praise on them. And Robin snapped this photo!

October 2004

face front archives

I write for Game Girl Advance quite often - here's a list of my last few posts there:


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February 27, 2004


I want to post a photo up, a photo I took of myself, reclining on a couch, reading a book. I'm underneath a wide window. Panes of glass, single panes of glass, with cold London outside. But it's sunny. A white room. I'm wearing a sweatshirt, horizontal at the bottom of the picture. It's all very casual. It was a relaxing afternoon reading in the sun.

And I would write underneath that photo: "I won't regret the afternoon I spent reading on my brother's couch." I would probably mention the book I was finishing, Bel Canto, and I would probably mention that the romantic slumber party tale reminded me that I love books, and so I went out and finally started reading Phillip Pullman. Because five people have recommended him to me in the last two years. I have been saying, five people have recommended him to me in the last sixth months, but maybe upon sober reflection for writing on the internet, I would have been more conservative.

Maybe I would have been. And then somewhere in there, I would have revealed that I'm sick again, and made some complacent comment, that I'm taking life easy and drinking tea and spending a lot of time reading in bed. That London is cold and my brother wishes I was more excited for nightlife. I would carp about cigarette smoke, and cite some adverse body fluids. I would click publish on all of that, sharing it with the world. Then I would go back to edit, adding a line from email to GK: "i'm probably sick so much because i travel. / no great revelations in the world, just a cycle of joy and sadness, ecstatic dancing and bedbound coughing." and maybe I would quote his reply: "Check your heart? Jesus. I hope you're okay. You must stop traveling." And that would make sense, all of it, because of the links I would add to all of the relevant books and people and citations from recent history.

Posted by Justin at 12:55 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

February 24, 2004

fade to grey

Steve Rhodes read out loud a New Yorker article from his Treo as we sped up the California central highway. "'After hip-hop fans hear it, they're like, "I gotta get this 'White Album,'"' Burton said."

Rapper Jay-Z released a "Black Album" and DJ Dangermouse remixed that with the Beatles "White Album" - making the eminently logical "Grey Album." The music of the Beatles is artfully chopped, spliced and shoveled out under Jay-Z's hard spit self-contemplation. Merging the revolutionary music of the 1970s and the 2000s.

I rushed home to download the Gray Album from Illegal Art. I was instantly in love - mixing cultures that don't otherwise touch, the tender strains of master melodists bent to serve rapid rhythm. Fantastic. Jay-Z I don't know too well; I admired his use of interview and his rhyming flow is tight. I recommended the album to friends on the strength of tracks like December 4, Change Clothes and Brush Your Shoulder Off. Other tracks like 99 problems are a bit of the usual boy's club for me. I've gotten older and spent less time listening to the word bitch. Ultimately, his humble, sad retiring tone, staring into mortality and fate, redeems the less-than-exceptional themes. And hearing the Beatles mixed up underneath is a double-barrel music blast.

I carried the album's MP3 around on a USB key and left copies of it where I could. The DJ at Boujis played an original Jay-Z album cut and I thought about giving him a copy of the remix, but I didn't have the digital music in the disco. I thought about buying it on CD for my brother, but I couldn't - the Beatles didn't clear the samples, and they wouldn't. It's too much weirdness done to a tightly preserved legacy.

Copyright laws should enable people to get paid for their work, for a time. John and George are dead. Paul and Ringo are alive, and well-paid. Isn't there a way that young artists should be able to freely reinterpret their legacy, paying royalties from any resulting sales?

So, Happy Grey Tuesday.

Posted by Justin at 09:12 AM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

now we must pack up every piece

Strong menthol chinese white flower singes my nose underhairs. I'm getting sick again! Hah! Another cold. I've rubbed sinus clearing ointment near my nostrils. And I'm sleeping and vitamining. At least I can remember my rich weekend from my sickbed. My socks all smell like cigarette smoke. I've decided I'm tobacco intolerant. London, you may kill me first, but you'll die shortly after, spewing cockney rhyming slang from holes in your neck.

Howard has said of my frequent maladies, chastizing me for not visiting a doctor and taking care of my health: "if your computer was that screwed up you'd deal with it."

My Treo 600 is battery dead, works only when plugged in. Clicking on a jpeg launches ACDSee which now crashes instantly destabilizing my other programs in progress. Any Quicktime video brings my computer to a jittering halt. So the old X21 is wheezing as well.

I went to the Doctor last week in Chicago. A full physical. The first time in years I'd had a doctor's hands on me, sounding me out, tapping on my chest, listening to my heart and my breathing, poking at my organs.

He heard a slight asthmatic wheeze when I exhaled. Not that I have asthma, he said, but I have an asthmatic reaction to infection, a hyperactive airway. He gave me a Combivent inhaler I should use when I'm sick like this, a cold with pale fluids, to keep my passages open. If my fluids are yellow or green, he gave me an antibiotic prescription.

He also detected a slight click from my heart. He wonders if I have something like a systolic ejection murmur. Yum. I have no idea what that means. Bad? Serious? Early sign of heart disease? No problem? In the next few months he wants me to get an echocardiogram.

Posted by Justin at 07:09 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

February 22, 2004

love is a battlefield

Somehow spent hoursboujisthis weekend at Boujis, a well-heeled London club. It has been a long while since this boy mingled with nightlife athletes.

Here's a failed opening line from my first night: "You look like Edie Sedgwick."

And she did! Vintage pink sleeveless top, long pearl strings, short white tennis skirt. I could have said Edie Sedgwick meets Pat Benatar, but her long full brown hair projected more East Coast tradition than love is a battlefield.

But love is a battlefield, and I made a false charge. This girl registered nothing but diffidence and ignorance. Projecting a glamorous ghost onto someone fails when they don't recognize the name. 19 years old, I couldn't tell. I took a chance!

I'm too invested in being interesting to have much success here, I decided. "You've got to lower your intellectual standards and raise your physical standards" a friend advises me. And she might be right, for this environment.

Meeting strangers, even in meeting-friendly circumstances, involves inserting yourself in their space somehow. Attracting attention to yourself. I often meet strangers by sharing a casual observation. But at a dance club, the music is too loud to strip out all but the most essential grunts and thrusts.

ecstatic danceI try thinking it's good exercise for me to practice getting outside my head, experiencing dancing and drinking and yelling in people's ears. Then I think about how hard these people work to battle boredom - money, drink, drugs, fashion, deafening music, all thrown down the throat. Why try so hard? I have a job I like, I tell myself, I don't need to party hard on the weekends; radically, manically stimulate myself.

Night two, slightly more accustomed to the scene I decided to amplify my energy by removing clothing. I stripped down shirtless beneath my red vest and wore an unbuttoned tuxedo shirt over that. Dancing naked = liberation.

I wasn't forty-five seconds from having changed clothes before a beautiful spastic girl grabbed me and we danced for five hours. We danced until the club closed, and we danced after the music stopped, chanting and prancing, laughing and giggling. She was a tomfooler.

She took me home with her friends, I hung out with 20-23 yrs Londoners. She turned on music in the living room and we continued dancing as her friends passed out or crept away. Dancing until sunrise, and a bit thereafter. How manic! How perfect!

This old dance curmudgeon was just looking for a energetic playmate.
Posted by Justin at 08:24 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

February 19, 2004

let casual encounters go

minutes before I leave for London. I'm travelling, tired. Not searching. I'm going to see people I've met. Maybe some new friends in between. But not explicitly heading off into the random.

I realized today - I spend most of my time distracted, running around tasking things that aren't core projects. Not writing books, not seriously considering the nature of all being, not preparing myself for next-stage adulthood. Except that I'm living, except that I am inquiring, constantly. So I'm serious about this inbetween nonwork. When it comes time to explicitly produce, to generate bits for the economy, I steal a few moments from the flow, from the fast passage, to write something. And damn I bang it out. Most times. I don't know if all writers are like this. But I mostly certainly work this way. Distract, observe, research, side-project, phone conversation, and then it all feeds into a hyper meatgrinder to make media life analysis sausage.

And over time, it appears to me that this work life I'm practicing is work life that allows me to mix up my days like this. Where a trip to the doctor, and the notes I take there, somehow complement my understanding of modern citizenship and so I keep it all and mix it in somehow, maybe. Or maybe not. The fleeting moments. The smiles. The nice woman next to me on the plane now. These are photos to be taken? Notes to scribble? Names to note? Dates to arrange? I can take it so seriously, signposting and postholing specific moments back to back fulfillment. But it's tiring! To push each encounter to evolve. In that moment, to test limits, to see if this person randomly at your side might not be the key to greater understanding.

Inevitably, most people are [a key to greater understanding]. But I'm working to let casual encounters go. To let the smiling woman in the elevator be just a time for observation. To pass the time with an old friend without hyperactively planning projects. To see what is. Not what desire might be slaked.

And to remember that one of the reasons to let these things pass without plumbing their potential is because I have an enormous amount of work to do and relationships in progress. And I'm trying to visualize it as finite - that my works leads up to March, and March is full. But April? April has nothing but rain and walking and nothing. Maybe an article or two. But definitely, still, some emptiness. I desire emptiness!

Posted by Justin at 07:09 PM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

February 17, 2004

Before the Road

hasselhoff and puppies, oh my!  courtesy of flickr.Posted my latest article for TheFeature: "Harnessing the Hacker's HeckleBot." Ostensibly a story about the Emerging Technology Conference in San Diego last week, it's secretly a reflection of my own struggle to manage my attention span when I have access to the internet and I'm surrounded by hyperactive geeks and I'm supposed to be listening to in-person presentations but the nature of communcations online suits me more readily.

centerAnd another cartoon about the mobile internet: center. And I was surveyed about games on Sunday.

Other assignments pending! And another trip, leaving Wednesday for Chicago, Friday for London, Saturday for Paris. Something like that. I'm going to see my Mom, and visit the doctor for a thorough checkup (why do I get a cold every six weeks? Besides the fact that I fly a few times a month and I don't eat properly. Besides that. Maybe I'm allergic? Let's find out for sure).

I'm going to visit my brother. And I'm going to meet a few people working on multiplayer games for mobile phones, and a French gent working on a documentary about video games. And hopefully Jyri in Oxford. Probably some other folks I can't even imagine yet.

Neighbor Oliver has been visiting me a few times a day, bringing me food, pestering me about the decrepid state of my front yard. What else is going on? I worked hard today writing and reading and then played a bunch of Freedom Fighers. It was quite fun. So fun I forgot to do some more painting. Ate almonds and raisins for dinner. It was raining, I was glad to be warm in bed. Relaxing just a bit before I hit the road again.

Posted by Justin at 02:25 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

February 14, 2004

special friends' day

Sorry I had to take off San Diego, and drive through LA fast - Pulled off of my eight hour drive at 10pm Thursday; I was driving into San Francisco in my suit by 7am Friday.

roofersI had a date at an elementary school. It was "Grandparents and Special Friends Day" - time to represent for my nephew and neice.

I wore my grandfather's jacket and my father's tie - a bit of family history in the mix. I sat through an entertaining presentation of song and science from the students. Cassidy introduced me as her uncle and some other family members were shocked - I looked too young they said. The other special friends were fascinating - from Guam, Japan, France, Ecuador. Cassidy and I filled out a survey - what was my life like at her age? Considering our nineteen year gap, my Chicago childhood was less radical than tales of writing with coal on birchbark. But she did find my young enthusiasm for cheese hot dogs offputting. Then we joined Eli in his science class, testing vingear with baking soda and lighting sugar on fire.

family science

Cassidy wrote me a letter, which finished with this line: "Also, thank you for letting me give you a hair cut! (lol!)" Chat language permeates down to nine years old!

Posted by Justin at 09:41 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

inverse relationship

What more could I wish for? I entertain myself with cufflinks pinned in an old Christian Dior white shirt, open to reveal a Small Hours black T. A Milkshake stocking cap instead of hairgel, old Brooks Brothers gray tweed blazer with a ski lift ticket still attached from Sundance. Borrowed black eyeliner applied later. Gleeful slight overdressing - Sagan was playing in town, 21 Grand. I went to see friends play amidst young machine spankers, making synth sing.

I danced through an expansive Korean menu. Cass and Hite. Danced to Books on Tape. Took notes for an essay on Sagan's perfecting fusion of live audio/visual stimulation in the mode of lay urban science.

sagan - lightsagan - staresagan - dark

Times I felt old. Angry performers poured bile past my capacity. Or posing prancing electronica-backdropped cock poetry. But I was absorbing local culture, with no other preference.

I want to write about someone I met who inspired me. But my interaction and dispelling here would be curtailed by her commitments. I mean I work to respect social ties as they are made evident to me. So I don't move strong, can't encourage anyone to trade up to me. Ditch him for your own reasons maybe, and take this card. I hope you do call me.

When I realize my desire is infinite, I am satisfied with anything. So her layered smells lingering under my nose, and the fresh burn of her straight truth spoken seared my brain. I was struck by a personality similarity - she overspoke; traded sentence length for density of observation. I'm a sucker for that. It was stroking to hear that it's still possible to be that tickled talking. I may have stiffened briefly but I carried it as a sense memory, not an inspiration to make the blues happen. It was enough to fall into a moment with someone unintended.

Full, I come home and I start writing again. In that mode that has me compulsively oversharing

<agro> I think you write more in a inverse relation to the amount of sex you are having

Some temptation to turn on the internet - I'm here, full of life awake and ready to talk and bond. But life swirls slowly past me here, in this room. I could perhaps conjure bodies into this space. But I'm alarmed by the effort required. The effortless of oversharing exceeds the temptation of financing or finagling human touch tonight. Full of memory still! I will be alive tomorrow.

Posted by Justin at 01:36 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 13, 2004


I write emails, post on web pages, and even update profiles on socializing sites. Then I lay down, eyes closing, diagonal across a wide bed. I've learned some veils maybe. And I've learned to remove them. Would it be better to be honest? *SLAP* Honest? What is honest?

That I desire, that I want to feel someone with me. That tonight I could enjoy flirtation and the sense of a soul or strong spirit next to me. Or maybe dissolution - losing myself in a haze of smoke and drink and sloppy sensuality on some corner floor. I've been disciplined; I've been on the road. And when I pause, I wonder, what do I want now? Now - between two trips, when I'm at the place I call home, but the place I'm not in very often.

I want her now quickly immediately and forever. I haven't met her yet, I guess. Or it could be any her. But what does that help?

Be with yourself, in bed I tell myself. Hah! Box of tissues and thou -

really, can I find that stimulation and satisfaction from observing my own behaviour and reacting to my own mind? Sharing seeing the world with myself? Can my fingers cradle my limbs to comfort? What more is there in another?

I meet so many people. What can I not get from our neatly dressed, introductory interactions? Even old friends I beg with my eyes. What depth beyond?

I would accept any offer or even more I would provoke, write more forward notes but maybe I have learned to be less honest. Because I don't have the time. I don't have the time to hold all that we strip off when we share our hunger. I say. After stirring some souls to action or excitement and then I retreat, back here, online introspective and travelling. Momentum is all I have. Hope too maybe, but it's hard to write with hope when you're hungry. And when the hunger is indiscriminate, you risk drawing odd shapes to your midst - odd shapes that might not satisfy without contortions. Odd shapes, I imagine you can trip over them when you're extending a hand to another friend.

It's a totalizing moment - all of my being projected onto anonymity. I can see decades to come in an unknown face, half-cloaked in hair, gazing in adoration at something I don't see or understand.

A life in balance demands I put this inquiry aside. And that's not hard, because it's going nowhere. I'm constantly experimenting. Here's my notes from my trip to New York and my trip to San Francisco today: putting in my contacts, dressing in a suit and holding my head up high with gel in my hair puts me on better footing with a wider array of women. Women on the street in New York actually smiled at me! So correct that - add, walking on the street helps put me in contact with women. Leaving my desk - Today I met one my age, smart cute with an odd accent. We chatted and pointed, observing the world shoulder to shoulder for the better part of thirty minutes. And when we were parting, she said, "it was a pleasure to meet you." I bowed slightly and agreed truly.

I didn't know her name. I thought about asking for some point of contact. But I remembered all my unanswered emails. And all of my phone numbers uncalled. Dates, appointments I couldn't make, even yesterday. I've already met her, and I haven't met her yet. I let this one go, pleasant. Maybe next time we meet, she will have evolved into something I can't resist. Or maybe I'll be more still and able to balance neither overreaching for something I can't sustain, nor retiring, from the palm upturned before me.

I'm looking for someone to lean on, perhaps. Suit myself up straight, and learn to lean on myself.

Posted by Justin at 04:26 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

February 11, 2004

rebooting at etech

I'm at a conference, I explained, in San Diego. Many of the greatest minds in my business of technology examination are here debating the future interactions between people and their machines. We saw demonstrations of armies of tiny military robots. And examined a future where mobile phones might be used to call an up to the minute minute protest.

She whistled, in her way, signalling interest but ignorance. Maybe I'll have a chance to tell her more about it. But when I hung up the phone, all I could think about was finding a place to crash. The conversations are stimulating and happening in hallways and online during seminars while people are talking, there's an IRC channel and Flickr and so I found myself slinking from session to session sitting in the back, wherever there was a power outlet, charging my devices and steadily losing my stamina. I couldn't see the powerpoint up in front. I couldn't always hear the speakers. I wasn't engaged in what was happening, and the power outlets and chat rooms were somehow sapping my attention.

So I crashed. I passed out hard. After two nights of in-bed-by-midnight and at least seven hours of sleep. Sure it was a different room each night. And sure I don't know where I'm sleeping tonight. But I ate breakfast every day. Took vitamins. Lived a healthy vagabond. And so I was wondering - where did my energy go?

Sleeping was like rebooting and I realized after nap-granted clarity that at least sitting up at the front of the room would better feed my mind. I have plenty to consider about the nature of the information saturated knowledge gathering. I can do it from the front row, where the remarks better wrap around me, even if I am doing ten things at once.

Posted by Justin at 05:38 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Electric Touch

I've been touched today: I discovered I'm a prototype item in a MMOG: Game NeverEnding. I was caught sleeping with Jason Calacanis. And Joi caught me questioning.

Posted by Justin at 12:31 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 10, 2004

New York Night

One week ago, after the Qwest session, Xeni and I retreated back to our hotel. She'd arranged for more than a few bright lights to join us, and two of my friends dropped by as well. Leigh I've known since I was quite small, and now she's a dancer with a self-written physical comedy show in mid-town. I was sad to miss that. Ayla hangs from wires, also a dancer, I missed her show too! Humph - too short notice.

NYC February 2004
Xeni's excellent photographer friend Siege took a picture holding my camera at his crotch and asked Ayla, myself and Leigh to react accordingly. The blow up of this picture is my desktop - it amuses me greatly!

NYC February 2004
Ayla, Xeni, myself and Leigh posed again for Siege, mid-orgy.

NYC February 2004
Left to right, top row first: Choire (Gawker), Justin, Heather, Peter (Gizmodo), Mar, Siege, KT, Xeni, Brian Battjer (Nawdy)
. Front left: Leigh and Ayla.

This is Souris's idea - when you're visiting somewhere, with not too much time, host a party for your remote friends. This time, I was fortunate to meet Xeni's remote friends. My idea was to invite everyone up to my room, with a few bottles of alcohol purchased at a nearby bodega. But the CCTV cameras in the elevator intimidated me. And the "living room" lobby at the W was nice enough. Actually, living and socializing in this hotel reminded me of Dreiser's American Tragedy - there's a rich economy of human affection trafficked in hotels. Ours was mostly benevolent and media rich.

Posted by Justin at 09:37 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 09, 2004

Safe Trippi

If a bomb hit this corner of a conference room, a tight core of people who populate and propel digital punditry would pass from the earth. And who would blog about it then?

trippiI've landed at the Emerging Technology Conference. The morning speaker is Joe Trippi, Howard Dean's former internet campaign manager (Howard Rheingold LiveBlogged Trippi's speech on SmartMobs). I sat near him at breakfast and invited him to practice his talk on myself and Tim Oren. "I have no idea what I'm going to say," he said. I proposed that the audience here is predisposed to like him, for promoting democratic uses of the internet. They're politically uninformed, relatively, and technically and media aware. He took the bait - "Versus the press, who are technologically incompetant and..."

I proposed he build a bridge between those groups, those understandings, for his talk. He said, "No way, I'm going to blow it up." I also warned him that they'll be fact-checking in real-time. "Shit, you're kidding me." With a straight face. But he reads blogs - he was playing with me. It was fun to talk with him - his deadpan responses to my provocations egged me on.

Mom saw this entry and mentioned that Trippi had been married to a family friend. So I followed him into the bathroom and cornered him later on the issue. He somehow routed that conversation to be about the people taking charge of democracy, and asked for my card for a followup on the conference. Later, when he was leaving in a big hurry talking to four people carrying his luggage, I stood next to him with my camera. "You're driving me nuts!" he said. Then he smiled and said take care.

trippi metrippi me

Posted by Justin at 08:36 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 07, 2004

travel costs

Question from the comments:

I see you travel a hell of a lot, but you say you are a freelance writer. To afford all this globetrotting you do (aside from the trips paid for by magazines/conferences asking you to speak) is there some resource or site that you find cheap travel deals on? I'm about to go into hardcore globetrot mode myself and I need some money saving info.

How do I keep my costs down travelling? Complicated. And if I was doing a better job, I wouldn't have the credit card debt I have.

There's time and there's money. Generally, the more time you are willing to spend, the less money you'll need. The more successful I become in my work, the more time is precious to me. Increasingly, I pay money instead of time to travel.

If you have time, but not money, think creatively about routing your trips. Fly from unpopular airports. Fly on unpopular dates. Go to places in the off-season, when hotels and flights are cheaper. Travel part way by plane, part way by bus. Definitely stay with friends, family or even strangers. If the point is to go, to explore, and not necessarily to be somewhere for an event, your time flexibility is your greatest asset for saving money.

Sites like Orbitz are aware of this - they sell plane tickets and they can find you a cheap cheap fare if you are willing to a) travel from any airport nearby and b) travel within a wide date range.

I don't buy many tickets on Orbitz. I buy nearly all my plane tickets from United. There are a couple reasons there. One, San Francisco is a United hub, for international and domestic travel. So is Chicago, where my parents live. I can go straight from SFO to Tokyo and Seoul and London. It's convenient for me.

But also, I fly routinely with United because I realized that I could exchange my loyalty for comfort. Flying with them, I accumulate mileage credits. I have been a 1k ranked flyer, because I went back and forth to Japan on $500 and $600 tickets. Cheap coach tickets and I was able to occasionally upgrade them to business class. I'm like a United Airlines leech. But whenever I fly somewhere, I try to fly with them, because it might enable me to be more comfortable, and I know the system. I buy their cheapest tickets. But I always buy their tickets.

Worst case, I'm paying a bit more. I don't think I ever pay more than $100 premium to fly with United. Sometimes, I could save $80 if I flew America West ("Worst"), and I had another layover. It's not worth it to me anymore. I'd rather arrive somewhere earlier, or just feeling better. I don't do many redeye flights. I enjoy JetBlue - they're a nice mix of efficient and comfortable, verging on fun. And cheap. And convenient - working out of Oakland, my nearest airport.

Joining a frequent flyer program extends the value of your money. I belong to every frequent flyer program run by the major airlines, hotel chains, and rental car places. Each time I travel with them, I'm paying credit into a pool that might someday save me money, or make me a bit more comfortable. It's my impression that you are taken more seriously as a customer when they see you have a relationship (a marketing relationship) with the company. So even if you buy cut-rate tickets off cheap web sites, and you're flying with a different carrier each month, subscribe to their travel networks. Especially if you are flying overseas - holy smokes, one round trip between the US and Asia is enough to get you a free domestic US plane ticket on some airlines. You can browse the forums on FlyerTalk, where people figure out how to maximize money and mileage within Frequent Flyer programs.

A lot of cheap travel comes down to circumstances - so my specific vendors might not be useful for you. Ultimately, it's about flexibility. As you globetrot, you're likely to discover that whether you're waiting for an international flight departure during a blackout or a tree-hewn canoe, you're going to have to wait. More than you expected. Cheaper travel makes for more adventure. More interaction with the environment. More interaction with the locals. Fewer power outlets, fewer internet connections, and occasionally, a feeling of greater risk.

Travel is adventure. That can't, and shouldn't, be helped. I drove to Las Vegas recently for a conference, and I'm driving to San Diego tomorrow, for another conference. Process, not product - what you encounter on your way to death, that's what life is.

Posted by Justin at 05:04 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

February 06, 2004

platform or community

Hours before my recent Qwest gig, I was working to pull together a slide show. They weren't sure I would be able to show it, but I wanted to have something on hand - some bright and shining screens from the future of fun as I saw it in Korea and Japan. My firewire drive wouldn't come online through my Thinkpad X21, and when it finally did, I couldn't run ACDSee to browse the photos. Then Winamp 2.91 started to crash. I suspect it was some recently installed MacAfee virus software. Either way, my small processor was starting to buckle under the multitasking road warrior load I'd been carrying for three years.

I learned a few years back - your computer stays fast as long as you don't update the software. But I'd love to update some things on my computer. Play with Photoshop 7. Use the latest version of Office. And now my computer was starting to impact my ability to work. The 20 gigabyte hard drive is too small to carry my photo archives, and if it can't read or write to an external drive, I'm in trouble working to pull together my presentations and articles.

pete just inSo I started thinking about another ThinkPad. This week's computer faltering coincided neatly with some recent reading about the Thinkpad X40 on Gizmodo (that's a picture of me standing with Gizmodo editor Peter Rojas). Here are some recent pictures, with an article in Japanese, about that computer: pictures and slot view. Apparently, the X40 will be available in the US this month.

This new IBM machine looks to be an appealing series of improvements - it has a built-in SD card reader (SD cards used both by my Treo, and Optio camera). Built-in wireless internet access. Faster. Smaller! Is there Firewire? Definitely USB 2.

More of the same, but better. And I'm remembering how many times I've had my computer serviced, in the United States in Japan. IBM fixing my machine various times without too many questions (or maybe just a bit of Keigo). The power and assurance of that global brand has been invaluable for this traveller.

But I wouldn't buy a Thinkpad to play games. I have a desktop PC for that, and increasingly, I have an XBox for that. And in a way, a ThinkPad reflects more of the same. Stabilization. Moving forward as a sleek road reporter.

Then I remember my other recent computing urge - after carrying a video camera through Korea, Japan and Chicago, taping interviews and art shots in California, I want to start editing videos and turning out polished clips for download or maybe even DVDs.

The defining moment here was a visit to Alex Nieminen in Helsinki last August. We sat down on his couch and surfed a DVD he'd made of a recent scuba trip. Photos, video clips, titles, subtitles, music, menus. It was a blast! His own trip DVD, turned out in a few weekends of tinkering after his trip. It was, he ribbed me, exceedingly easy to put together on his Macintosh computer.

I have a nice PC desktop I bought mid-2003. Definitely fast enough to handle this sort of thing, I figured. So I downloaded Microsoft's answer to Apple's iMovie, Movie Maker, and worked to make a few videos (see some shorts in my Korea coverage. I couldn't get subtitles to work, and I couldn't convince the software to slowly scroll an Ikkyu haiku with a moving image in the background. Too many training wheels! And Movie Maker refuses to read data from my Sony PC101 digital video camera.

video hackerySo I've been fantasizing over the last few months that I might get a fast Mac in my house to begin to pull from the growing stack of tapes. The fantasy of a computer that can edit video as soon as I turn it on. And maybe splurging for Final Cut Pro, so I can make something more complicated with pop-up windows, layers of information. The multimedia mis en scene aesthetic of the Pillow Book applied to my life and travels.

Maybe a desktop, I reasoned. More power, and I wouldn't really edit video on the road, right? But thinking about the MEM Project in Shibuya and Sagan or the Small Hours in Oakland, I love watching my friends share rich media from their PowerBooks. When I think about the compelling live digital performances I've seen in the last few years, nearly all have been been driven off a modern Macintosh.

jay bev ryan = sagan 2002So I've started to consider getting a Macintosh laptop. If you're going to make media, have the potential for media making wherever you are. Especially if your schedule includes San Diego, Chicago, London and Paris before the end of February. Why leave your big iron at home?

Wouldn't that mean switching my email, contacts, calendar, hotsyncing, mp3s, photos, articles, financial data from PC to Mac? If it's my road machine. Or at least sharing all that information between two operating systems, at home and on the road? Oh the complexity! I trembled as I imagined adding OSX to the symphony of devices and operating systems that already demand my time and reward me with tinkering potential.

But why get a new computer if you're not going to immerse yourself in using it? The idea of becoming a primarily Macintosh user began to appeal to me as a tasty challenge. I realized I have a large untapped part of my community that are deep Macintosh lovers. Ryan, Adam, Chris, Howard, and most of the personal filers - many of the people I respect as creative technological citizens are avid Mac users. There's a culture of hacking, trading applications. People helping other folks. Casual media making. Integrated Unix shell!

What's not there? Terrific support for the Treo 600, apps like Pocket Library. Games - most of my gaming friends look horrified and almost angry when I talk about switching. And switching would mean losing some compatibility with years of Quickening, photo cataloging with ACDSee, MP3 cataloging with WinAmp 5. Increasingly my data lives on the internet, so maybe that will help me bridge the gap between Outlook and whatever I might use on the Mac.

Ultimately it boils down to this - it's not a question of which platform to join, but which community. Business and games, or filmmaking musicians? If I look at my life as a series of phases, the last time I owned a Mac was 1998 - a Duo 2300c. Maybe it's time for a switch back. An experiment! An adventure. Something challenging, changing my perspective. Imagine my talks with video clips - last week in Seoul, I saw this... !

Another voice chimes in just then, asking me if I want to really challenge myself technically. If I bought another ThinkPad, I would be quickly up and running fast, stable as I've set myself up for years. Do I really want a technological challenge of adjusting my life for Apple, or shouldn't I stay focused on challenges of writing and productivity? Do I really expect to make a lot of videos on the road? Most of the time, I'm a writer.

But that's staid talk. Fortunately I still have debts to pay off - only when I'm in the black will I consider buying a new machine. That should be a few months. I'll carry this question with me for the next few weeks, wondering what kind of creative computer user I want to be. Today, I'm leaning towards a 15" Powerbook.

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February 04, 2004


NYC February 2004

Doug experiencing sticker shock, staring at the large glass vial of VOSS water in my room at the W Union Square.

My most recent trip to New York was a trip sponsored by Qwest communications. They're a telecom company with some sad recent history; now with a new CEO, they're reaching for some new vision.

Part of that is polling pundits, people who write about mobile entertainment, social networks and how we use our mobile phones. I was invited to participate, probably because of my Japan/Korea coverage for TheFeature. It was a symposium - eight people up on stage for three (actually four) hours with an audience of videocameras and marketing minds. That was Tuesday in New York:

NYC February 2004

Clay sits before the audience.

I took copious notes that evening. Out of deference for our hosts who actually paid to hear this information, I'm going to provide only a few highlights below.

Clay pointed out that Spam, AIDS and SARS are problems of open networks. September 10th, 2001, may be the most open our society ever was. Now people are more focused on creating closedness; securing their personal networks.

Doug pointed out that media has gone from being an excuse to gather to being a means to gather. Kids want to control their experience, stepping up to meta-control levels.

Clay observed that churn rate in massively-multiplayer online games comes from guilds leaving, not users. Networks: stop looking at dots and start looking at lines. A company might help users create loyalty to each other. Permit group MMS messaging, permit groups to form around visual documents.

Xeni agreed with the need for more grouping potential; she asked for the creation of social network sites or software she would want to be in all day long.

Dennis pointed out that his Verizon phone can only exchange pictures with other Verizon phones. That "walled garden" approach frustrates community.

Jane B pointed out that pre-paid is much more popular in Europe, making it easier for kids to use phones. Clay complained that data services are not available over pre-paid.

Doug pointed out that kids have unlimited desktop net usage with multiple friends IMing and surfing - but they can't take it on the road with them.

Omar observed that the web was built for interaction with information - people hacked in community.

Clay continued on that point - the web was hackable. The mobile internet is not yet hackable. With BREW, hacking is illegal! Can't upload home-made applications on to your own mobile phone. But Nokia just announced a smartphone scripting language.

NYC February 2004

Doug and Xeni. You can't see Sueann to Doug's right.

Xeni pointed out that phones are slowly losing their geographic ties.

Sueann asked where communications fits in with new urban development.

Omar continued on that line of questioning, asking what happens when you cascade tons of bandwidth over public spaces.

I had an extended rant on the education of mobile users, along the lines of my recent TheFeature.com journal entry.

NYC February 2004

Dennis from Dodgeball, moderator Janet from University of Minnesota Design Institute, and Omar from Community Connect. Last time I saw Omar was in 1995 when I was giving one of my first professional talks, at the Rand Corporation.

We wrapped up the extended session by listing all of our telecommunications loyalties - astonishingly long lists from a group of folks very wired and very wireless. For example, I'll list my active accounts:


  • SBC voice/Tivo land phone line
  • SBC voice/fax land phone line
  • SpeakEasy DSL high-speed internet line
  • Comcast cable high-speed internet line
  • DirectTV Satellite
  • Earthlink Account
  • EFax account


That jumble of communications begs simplification. What one company might offer me all those services? A frighteningly large company, I suspect. Or maybe a nimble one.

We left them with a number of bold propositions and excited suggestions; I will be interested to see how the company develops itself over the coming years. Between wireless, landlines and high speed internet, with a firm local footing in the middle-West United States, I think Qwest has potential to create new forms of community using telecommunications. Like any of us using the internet!

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Two Days in NYC

Sunday was laid back -

NYC February 2004

Anil and Alaina hosted Superbowl hotdogs and real dogs at their apartment in Chelsea the East Village.

NYC February 2004

There was pre-game gaming, Mario Kart Double Dash, giving us a chance to get heated over competition before the professional athletes took over the television.

NYC February 2004

During pre-game poker, Meg looks on as Silvio throws what must be a gang sign for Invasiv.

NYC February 2004

Then chatting into the night with on-pulse journalist examining art and technology intersections, Xeni and her sister Mar, visiting New York for furniture. Photo by Mar.

- - -

Monday was a dense press - four appointments between breakfast and dinner, travelling around Manhattan catching up with friends and projects.

NYC February 2004

Started Monday morning at Invasiv Studios, a game development studio in TriBeCa. I saw some of their promising prototype game designs, visited with Silvio and met the team, including Souris, David, old friend Sean.

NYC February 2004

Trotted over to Kinja nearby in Tribeca, to see Meg, Jim, Gina, and Mark, building next-generation web tools. Meg holds their mascot Rosie the Riveter bobble-head doll.

NYC February 2004

My brother's old grade school friend Ron Lieber writes for the Personal Journal section of the Wall Street Journal; I stopped by for a soup and sandwich, near the gory postcard hawkers at Ground Zero. Ron worked on Taking Time Off, and he's been a journalist for years now; we compared career notes.

NYC February 2004

High school friend Nicole has been encouraging me to write a book for years; we had a meeting on the subject in SoHo.

NYC February 2004

Dinner with NYU professors Cate and Eric, and old friend Danielle. Then I joined Amy and her Italian journalist friend (right) for drinks at an unlabelled bar in the East Village. Shots of Vodka to toast Pete's birthday - whew. I'm getting old.

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February 02, 2004

New York Nightlife

alexis, uni
First night landing in excellent Japanese food with friends, Ethan, Yoshi, and Alexis, pictured above the table's treasured uni on the half-urchin.

buy Crystal, get HIV free!
Advertisement seen in the Chelsea district of New York, near the famous Chelsea Hotel - "Buy Crystal, get HIV free!" The ads were paid for by Peter Staley, of AIDSMeds.com.

Fuji TV
Dropped by NewYork-Tokyo's Game Night Groove, where I was interviewed briefly by Fuji TV as a journalist, about the American games scene. "Do you think New Yorkers are getting out more, to play games? Why?" I mused for just a moment, perhaps during war time, during the winter, people feel stressed out and cooped up. After people have spent the day working on the computer, or somehow isolated from other people, games offer a good way to break the ice, to share social space with strangers and friends. A sort of social lubricant. She nodded and looked on a clipboard for her next question.
Picture by Souris.

texas hold 'em
Afterwards ended up near Chinatown playing Texas Hold 'em for a small cash pot. I hadn't played cards for money since I was in college! It was fun. Talking big, and losing. Look who has the chips here? From left, Souris, Jon, Silvio, Adam, Maria.

Not pictured? Anything from February 2004. Like Miss Jackson's NippleRing or where I saw it. TK !

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