The Urban Clearcut

This happens. A lot.

Vancouver’s housing market may be softening, but the urban clearcut is alive and well.

Even here in super green North Vancouver.

It goes like this.

They’re typically 30 or 40 year old houses – a 3 bedroom bungalow or rancher that served its family perfectly well. Here in North Vancouver they’re usually sitting on a pretty big lot – often with mature trees on either side and in the back.

The house gets sold and the new owners want to build something  big Рusually the maximum size allowed  Рso the house goes and so do the trees.

I took this photo this afternoon. A few days ago there was a house on this lot, and a lot of trees. Its easy to see how many from the pile of timber stacked out front.¬† In the background you can see the trees on the neighbour’s property.

No doubt the new owners will do their best to pave the remaining natural surfaces

Sad.

Flash 10 and WordPress image uploader

I’m not sure how I missed it, but if you’re a WordPress user and you love the image upload function, stay away from Flash 10. It borks the uploader – and you’ll need to revert to Flash 9 or use the browser upload instead.

The WP forum ‘closed’ topic on image upload problems does mention this, but I hadn’t gone back to that doc since reading it the first time (trying to solve other image upload problems).

The WP forum seems to indicate its an issue especially for Linux, but the WP Image uploader for definitely doesn’t work with WP on my Intel Mac when running Flash 10.

Fortunately I was able to find my old Flash V9 player and reinstalled it.

http://wordpress.org/support/topic/164999?replies=1

Here’s the error message I get inside WP CMS:

(click for a larger version)

click for a larger version

Error #2176: Certain actions, such as those that display a pop-up window, may only be invoked upon user interaction, for example by a mouse click or button press.
at flash.net::FileReferenceList/browse()
at SWFUpload/SelectFiles()
at Function/http://adobe.com/AS3/2006/builtin::apply()
at flash.external::ExternalInterface$/_callIn()
at <anonymous>()

The Otters Revenge

A couple of weeks ago I made what I thought was an innocuous remark about river otters at the marina and the various ways boat owners have chosen to keep them off their vessels.

River Otters use their scat and urine to mark their territory, and once they find a spot they ‘like’, they return over and over. If your the lucky owner of a boat that’s become their favourite spot – good luck.

Here’s the thing.

They’re cute as hell, but their leave-behind, while I’m sure aromatic to another Otter, is down right smelly. Our friend Mandy on Saltspring says if they get in your boat, about the only way to get rid of the smell is to sell it.

With a sailboat, the issue is less problematic than an open powerboat.

Unless you leave a hatch open.

Which I never do.

Except for earlier this week.

When I did.

Leave the hatch open.

Stupidly.

Ironically, the day I left the hatch open was the day I went down to the boat to wash the otter goo from the foredeck.

Oops.

Normally, leaving the hatch open would mean a nice fresh air smell down below.

Except.

Our local otters discovered my mistake and used otter SMS to let their peeps know it was time to party.

Compared to the cold fiberglass non-slip fore deck, things are downright luxurious below decks. At least from an otter’s perspective (or a cold sailor’s).

Those crazy kids left quite a mess, the smell was quite unbelievable. I spent a couple of hours pulling everything out of the boat, washing it down, and scrubbing down the boat. EB finds it amusing that I can spend hours scrubbing the boat but rarely do the same with our kitchen or bathroom floor but that’s for another post.

Even then it smelled mighty ripe.

A nice day out on the water to air things out seemed appropriate.

What little breeze there was didn’t do a lot to dissipate the smell, so I’ve hauled everything ‘marked’ by my otter pals home for a heavy duty scrubbing, using organic orange peel concentrate and whatever else I can get my hands on.

So far the results are 50-50.

My foul-weather gear is smelling pretty good actually – the 4 settee cushions a lot less so.

Thankfully the boat’s only in the water for another week then will be parked beside the house where I can apply any number of smell-reducing-organic-concoctions in hopes of bringing Madsu back to her odiferous self.

Never before have I longed for that musty smell of a closed up sailboat.

The iPod for Books

Publishers should be thinking a lot more seriously about electronic books and how to leap ahead of their competitors.

Sony’s eBook has only been available in Canada for a few months, and it’s far from the perfect product, but it provides a glimpse into what’s coming.

Playing with the eBook Reader reminds me of the first MP3 players I used in the 90’s. At the time, people scoffed at the idea that the small players would replace their CD collection. People scoffed at the idea of an online music store where songs would be downloaded. And we all know how that turned out.

The shift to electronic books could easily follow the same pattern, assuming the hardware meets our needs. The Sony eBook is close – more on the problems later.

First – the good.

I love the eBook reader. It’s sleek, easy to use, and the screen technology is far better than anything I’ve seen before. Partly this is due to the high resolution of the e-ink technology – it’s more than twice the resolution of your typical computer screen – so text is crisp. Since the screen technology doesn’t depend on back lighting (like your laptop) it looks totally flat, so the effect is much closer to the look of paper than a digital screen.

The Sony eBook also displays images (in black and white), plays MP3’s and allows you to load up Word documents and PDF files, along with their own e-book format and other open electronic book formats.

I’ve loaded about 70 books into my reader and I’ve barely touched the internal memory. This version of the reader has 2 slots for Sony memory sticks, so there’s really no limit to the amount of content you can carry around.

I found that I quickly adjusted to the form factor. The placement of the ‘next page’ buttons line up with where you normally hold a book, and there’s a bookmark function to hold your place.

Essentially, the reading experience is different, but not in a negative way. The feel of the book obviously isn’t there, but it functions pretty much like a book, and that’s what makes its potential so powerful.

Riding the bus, sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, or hanging out on a park bench – this device is ideal. Like an mp3 player, it’s light and easy to carry – so I’m more likely to have it with me than I might a big heavy book. And considering that I can haul around hundreds of books, it’s hands down a much better option.

Opportunities

I can see a lot of major advantages in terms of publishing.

Timeliness

Reference and technical books, particularly those about software, are largely out of date by the time they’re published. With an electronic book, updates and changes could be made as often as required, and just a download away. It’s a natural for serialization. And dare I say it – a daily newspaper ?

Presentations

While I can haul out my laptop for a quick one-on-one presentation with a potential client, the size of the eBook is more easier to deal with, and I can literally stand in the elevator and walk through a presentation on the way up. Keep in mind that the screen only displayed in black and white (actually, 4 shades of grey) so I do repurpose my presentations to make them look good on the screen, but you can also just load up any PDF, Word doc, JPG or Gif image, and the eBook will simply display colour as monochrome images.

eBook and Podcasts

Given that Sony’s included an MP3 player right in the eBook, it seems natural to bundle books with author podcasts, as well as serialized “books on MP3” packages that could be used for promotion.

Trees

Books use paper. eBooks use bytes. Need I say more ? Shipping ? Fogetaboutit.

Here’s where I think things need to improve

Software. Sony makes great consumer entertainment products but its software is often horrid. Given that they have a great model with the iTunes store, there’s really no excuse for the state of Sony eBook store. The software is also the interface for loading books onto the eBook reader. It needs a major over-haul in look & feel as well as functionality.

Connectivity. Hard to beleive, but Sony’s software is PC only. Given the nature of the eBook reader, the Apple crowd should be a prime target market. But unless they’re running their MacBook in dual boot mode, they’re out of luck.

Tether. Connectivity to the computer is via a USB cable. I’m assuming the reason there’s no Bluetooth or other wireless connectivity is space, but I’d dearly love to be able to move data back and forth without having to find the cable and plug in. This is a challenge Apple still hasn’t solved with the iPod so I supposed I shouldn’t be so demanding. All I know is that as long as the device has to hook up to my computer, it’s potential is limited.

Price. The 505 model is 300.00 Canadian, which seems expensive given the price of things like iPods, game consoles and and digital cameras. The goal here is to get people using the device so they’ll buy books. Consumers don’t like paying for technology development and a price point that’s too high will keep the adoption rate low.

The newly released 700 models has some nice new features including touch scrolling, but at 400.00 it’s just way too expensive. Amazon’s competitor, the wireless Kindle, is 359.00 USD

Why publishers need to pay attention

The book isn’t going away any time soon, but things are going to change dramatically. Electronic books open up some new possibilities for existing publishing models, and throw the doors wide open to new models.

Is it possible that within a few years the biggest book seller might be a hardware manufacturer ? There’s a reason Amazon created it’s own electronic book reader.

Why not publish dailies in ebook form, so that I can grab up update on my way out the door and read it on the bus ?

Sony’s eBook reader already supports RSS feeds – with a wireless connection there’s no reason I couldn’t be walking through the mall, train station or even at transit bus shelter and downloading the latest update to the periodicals and books I’ve subscribed to.

The e-paper will get better. The connectivity will improve. The price will come down. There’ll be other models and competitors. All those things bode well for publishers – IF they get with it and start to explore what’s possible.

Links:

Get this article for your Sony eBook reader (open BBeb format)

Sony eBook reader at SonyStyle.ca

Amazon’s Kindle

(this article has been cross posted at RobertOuimet.com )

Crisis? What Crisis?

The title of a 1975 album by Supertramp has absolutely nothing to do with the current financial meltdown. But the phrase (also from the movie Day of the Jackal) is my favourite response when things get testy.

With every news report laden with the latest stories on the financial crisis, and an election campaign both here and in the US, its time to deal with this stuff once and for all.

How ?

Simple.

Fugetaboutit.

Down on the docks at Horseshoe Bay there was no inkling of anything other than the typical waterfront activity.

Ferries from Bowen Island, Departure Bay on Vancouver Island, and Langdale came and went like clockwork. And hundreds of cars – long-weekend mainlanders heading to a B&B or Gramma’s house – lined up (as usual) waiting for their boat to arrive.

Over on the east docks, where Madsu is moored, river otters continue to make a mess on boats tied there. Given the choice between munching their seafood on the rocks or on a nice Sumbrella fabric cover, they go for the boat covers ever time.

They also seem to like those lovely upholstered seats in power boats, and they leave quite a mess.

Here’s what they left behind on the boat in the slip next to me.

This is the same guy who’s parents leave CBC Radio One on in their boat, claiming it keeps the otters away ( and it seems to work).

My boat neighbour though claims he’s found the perfect anti-otter-repellant: wolf pee. I’m not entirely sure how he’s going to acquire it, or how he’s going to apply it, and if his boat will smell better or WORSE because of it, but what the heck – sounds like a plan

Over at the government dock, a big vintage power vessel was tied up, getting all gussied up for what looked like a wedding party.

I’ve not seen the Tarapunga before, and her aft deck was decorated with ribbons and flowers – but the wedding is a fake: they were shooting on-the-water scenes for the TV series Harper’s Island.

While I was out sailing, Tarapunga went steaming by – not far behind the picture chopper flew just a hundred feet or so off the deck – swooping in on Tarapunga for what I’m sure will be a very sweet shot since as she steamed out into the Straight with the sun glistening off the water.

Beautiful BC couldn’t be much more adorable than it was today.

I tried to get Madsu in the shot but when it comes to a race between my Catalina 22 and a helicopter, well…

The wind piped up so I put a 2nd reef in the main and pulled out my bagged out old jib.

Six hours later I was back at the dock, giving Madsu a proper scrub down after soaking the foredeck in salt-spray.

One fine Thanksgiving Weekend sail – and the only bail-out I considered the entire day was in relation to the dinghy.

Markets ? What markets?

Kung Fu Candidates and Other Great Links

What a week.

  • Tired of the election campaign(s) yet ? You won’t be once you try Kung Fu Election
  • Speaking of voting. Still time to cast your ballot for poultry trainee of the year
  • OMG! What can they be thinking! Musicians want ownership of their own material! The nerve of them !
  • Cool 20 years ago – can Q magazine be cool again ? 20 years ago it was a great way to see pics of bands and read about them before they hit big. Given the proliferation up to the second information available today, not so much.
  • Turn that thing up. Emergency vehicles may soon be getting sub woofers just like your local low riders.
  • 14 years ago almost to the day, EB and I bought a used 91 Jeep Cherokee after realizing that having kids and not having a car wasn’t going to work. This week ICBC towed it to the salvage yard – a write-off after I got rear-ended a couple of weeks ago. Bye Bye Jeepee, you served us well.
  • Somehow this doesn’t sound like an impending depression. Or does it ? “Hey Brother can you spare 7 billion dollars?
  • You Like Skype ? You Like Privacy ? Hah !
  • Craigslists and an inner tube. Sounds kinky. Wrong. Just a clever thief who’s probably already signed a book deal
  • Looks like the days of sailing barefoot are over for this season. Apparently I’m not alone. Canada’s coast lines are going red, and I don’t mean red hot.