Alpine Nights


A warm easterly wind blew music and laughter my way, the sound of the water splashing against the boats was hypnotic, and the lights of the cable car in the distance flickered as the wind swayed the gondolas. The great thing about vacations is that they have an end. Not that I wanted to leave, but knowing this would be my last night at the lake made it so much more important to stay in the moment, take it all in, enjoy as much and as well as I could.

Walking back from sitting at the shore for a while I was intercepted by my hotel’s receptionist who invited me to join her and her friends for one last beer. It would be much, much, later before I finally fell into my bed, secure in the knowledge that I had taken in everything I could.

2014-08-27 11_44_45-You Have Free Cloud Storage - - Gmail

Just Cloud is simply Just Shit

If you are one of the millions of people who apparently “earned” a “free” Just Cloud 1GB by having an account somewhere else (Dotster, for example), you know what I am talking about: the dozens of emails flooding your inbox, despite unsubscribes and in flagrant disregard of, you know, the idea that opt-in is the way to go.

Jamie Heathorn, my “personal account manager”, is apparently very concerned for my well being, sending me near-daily emails reminding me that I am just one step away from adding a free Gigabyte to my collection of cloud accounts. Sure, I have a few TB on Google Drive. Sure, I have earned (but never used, for a multitude of reasons) quite a bit of Box, DropBox, and other storage quotas. And, yes, I am running an OwnCloud server on a Digital Ocean droplet, but that Gigabyte REALLY makes a difference.

2014-08-27 11_48_44-Cloud Storage Reminder - - Gmail

When Jamie Heathorn didn’t stop emailing me despite unsubscribe requests and a very polite email asking them to kindly disembowel themselves and feed their entrails to the pigs I did a little research. Just Cloud is, of course, just another upsell business. Get a “free” Gig, get nagged to upgrade, get nagged to back up your whole system in which case you’ll get nagged to upgrade again. That stuff.

2014-08-27 11_48_59-Protect Your Files In The Cloud - - Gmail

Frequent mentions of JustCloud charging up to $210 from unsuspecting subscribers who had their credit card on file and missed the “automatically increase my quota unless I state I don’t want this via email or fax” provision in the TOS. Scare-emails using words such as “flagged for being over quota” and evoking the crash monster to drive people to purchase expensive and rather limited cloud storage.

2014-08-27 11_49_31-Jonas, activate your free account - - Gmail

Cloud Storage is hot. That means it pays off to pay off comparison sites, sell a 14 day trial (which automatically becomes the most expensive option) as “free 1GB,” and to offer lucrative referral schemes to places like Hostgator, Doster, and others.

2014-08-27 11_50_44-Cloud Storage Activation - - Gmail



Martine Reicharts is Wrong about The Right To Be Forgotten

On GigaOm:

“Search engines such as Google and other affected companies complain loudly. But they should remember this: handling citizens’ personal data brings huge economic benefits to them. [...] Those who try to use distorted notions of the right to be forgotten to discredit the reform proposals are playing false. We must not fall for this,” said Reicharts in her speech.

… I am somewhat speechless.

censorshipThe thing is, I don’t believe Google (or Bing/Microsoft, Yahoo!, whomever) is distorting this debate as much as tiptoeing around the truth. Much as I believe Michael Doepfner (Axel Springer) to be a whiny loser in his “Open Letter” to Google (the one where he accuses Google of trying to become a fascist Supercountry in which transparent citizen are forced to labor in the mines of ad dollars for Mountain View right before he admits that he’s just sore about not being the one who does it), he drives an important point home: being visible on Facebook, Twitter, Google and other search engines and content indices is the only way forward for journalists today.

The right to be forgotten isn’t a search engine problem. It’s a censorship problem. One in which the old video camera debate in Europe finds its revival online. To refresh the collective memory: in 2011 a court in France ruled that a video shot by a Greek journalist in Paris during a protest was inadmissible in court and could not be shown publicly. The clip showed a man shoving, punching, and sexually assaulting a woman slightly off view but still very much in the public eye. The video was shot as part of a documentation of the demonstration and sideline violence, not specifically to target the man. The accused’s right to privacy, even for acts committed in the public eye, the court ruled, trumped the right of the public to know and the right of the victim to be made whole. As a result the man (whose name is edited everywhere to simply be “P.”) was given a six month suspended sentence for one punch he admitted – a shorter term than the recovery of his victim.

censorshipIn a sense the Right to Be Forgotten is simply the same. Our right to “edit” the truth and stifle journalistic reporting via the Google version of a gag order or super injunction trumps the right of journalists to inform and the right of the public to know. Supporters of the ruling point out that newspapers can still print, websites can still display. They conveniently ignore the truth Doepfner points out in his otherwise flawed Open Letter – without being on Google, Bing, and Yahoo and without being linked from Facebook and Twitter (who are rarely mentioned but essentially also searchable indexes and therefore theoretically affected) you might as well not have written it.

The least Google can do (and does) is inform me as the journalist and the public at large that I am being censored by an individual with a specific interest in doing so. Be it a “mindless hooligan” who stole and assaulted people, a child molester, or a disgraced Merrill Lynch executive.

Reicharts’ idea of the Internet as a personal playground for advertisers and sellers of wares but not a carrier of news and information reflects poorly and accurately on the vibe in Europe.

In the Churn of Time we’re Just the Chaff

It’s great how the world keeps turning and things change.

No ten years ago online publications rallied against traditional media and fought to become relevant. Today traditional media rallies against online publishing and fights to stay relevant.

Twelve years ago Axel Springer got its new CEO Michael Doepfner (former Editor in Chief of Die Welt) who proclaimed that digital was a crapshoot, the Internet irrelevant, and print was here to stay. Today the company is “completing its remarketing into a Digital Agency” after having bought a dozen or so failing online media, affiliate marketing, and SEO companies. Doepfner pens an open letter in which he proclaims he’s scared of the Neofascists at Google who want to establish a Supercountry in which transparent citizen are milked for ad cash.

Nine years ago Amazon acquired a few eBook and digital content companies. European publishers like Hachette laughed about the upstart investing into a doomed model because everyone loves books, printers and typesetters and book stores won’t ever go away, and besides eBooks are hard to read. Today Hachette finds itself in a war of the middlemen with Amazon, hurting both consumers and creators (coin and content) in the process because they can’t agree who gets to keep the main share of their filched goods.

Those things aren’t revolutions. They’re evolutions. Uncontested and monopolizing former kings of the jungle like Springer or Hachette are embroiled in a struggle against the new predator, equally savage, equally unconcerned, but evolved.

Saving your current Doc as PDF on Drive from Google Docs

docsapp4Whenever I write obsessively into the night I follow a simple ritual before shutting off my computer and heading to bed: the tedious last step of downloading whatever current work is done to PDF, re-uploading it into a folder, setting permissions for viewing, and inviting the right people to see it.

Because I am never averse to spending a day and a half learning something to shave off ten minutes in total from a task I figured I could do better and have it automated. And here is how the saving directly to PDF on Drive worked for me:

1. Add a new Script to your Document on Drive

[box type="bio"] Update: If you’re in the US you could also use Google Cloud Print. I prefer this approach because it also allows me to add further conversions down the road but the GCP way is clearly easier and more native.[/box]

In your document go to Tools -> Script Editor and name your new script something nice. I call mine Martha because that’s a nice name. You could call yours Henry or Snuffles or “Converter Script” or so.

Paste this into the script body (when you add a new script it’ll ask you what kind, just choose “Blank” or delete whatever is already in the text area):

Save that.

2. Try it out

docsapp2Close the original document and reopen it. I am aware of a bug with Google Apps Script that will throw a non-recoverable error on first open. Simply prevent JavaScript from opening more dialogues, close the document, and re-open it. On second (and subsequent, even if you edit the code above again) open this bug won’t trigger anymore. It will ask you for permission to manage your documents, that’s so we can actually save something.

docsapp3You should now have a new menu entry called Publish. Clicking on it will bring up an “are you sure” dialogue which you could remove if you want to save two clicks.

The folder is hardcoded as “Converted to PDF” inside the macro, change that or simply throw in a requester. You could also get the doc’s current folder and use that, I went with the “one folder to rule them all” method. Since Google Drive goes by ID and not file name you can easily save the same named file multiple times, which means the date I am appending is more for my own edification and to find a specific version than to prevent overwriting.

3. There is no Step 3

That’s it. Head into your Converted to PDF folder, share and notify. Saves one upload, a grand total of ten seconds, but who would let a little fact like that get into the way of our exploration of new tools?

Open Places Steals Photos (and they’ve got lots of company)

Liz Hamill Scott is a prolific photographer of nifty places. She’s traveled to Big Sur and to Los Gatos and everywhere in between where she takes pictures like the one below.

2014-08-02 11_44_51-Open Places _ Los Gatos Creek Trail

There’s only one problem: she isn’t. And Trazzlers/Open Places knows about it. Why? Because I told them, numerous times, that I do not consent to my 2003 image, which is not available under a Creative Commons license, being used with someone else’s attribution attached to it.

Even if it had been, Trazzlers violates everything there is about Creative Commons (my stuff is all BY-NC-SA, which means it has to be attributed, can not be commercially used, and must be shared alike). Moreover, Trazzlers builds Open Spaces to “make our editorially selected and vetted content available free to nonprofits, public radio stations, parks, schools, tourism bureaus, publications, and other approved organizations.”

“Share alike” does not mean “Share any way you wish.”

Why am I whining about one, eleven year old, image? Because this isn’t just an image. It’s a systemic issue with companies such as Trazzler who peruse, abuse, and reshare content without explicit attributions and regard for the license the original work was published under. Far as I can tell, the picture has since appeared in sales brochures like this one from Colliers Parrish, a Silicon Valley real estate company, homophobic screeds by the Calvary Korean Baptist Church, and the Vasona Park Association. All either not attributed at all or attributed to Liz Hamill Scott.

Violations of Flickr’s ToS aside (is Flickr even relevant enough anymore for anyone to give a shit about their ToS? Nevertheless, ToS is ToS) which requires a link back, this is just one of many images of mine and everyone else which have taken on a life of their own.


The (pretty amazing) Adidas story

150px-Logo_brand_AdidasThe year is 1918 and a young man from Herzogenaurach (a small town in Franconia, Germany) sits in his mother’s wash kitchen, assembling shoes. Not just any shoe, though, a lightweight, flexible, one suitable for running and walking. Power is fickle and so he often uses a stationary bike to generate electricity for light and his sowing machines. He’s not a pro, even though his father and brother used to work at a shoe manufactory before heading off to fight in World War I. His name is Adolf (“Adi”) Dassler, and while he doesn’t know it yet, he’ll revolutionize a lot of things.

His brother Rudolf, the hothead, joins him in 1924 after Adi’s work begins to pay off. Together they found the Brothers Dassler Shoe Factory (Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik), or GDS, with each of the letters in a white stripe inscribed upon the shoes. With almost doubled output, Adi and Rudolf sell between twenty and forty pairs of their shoes a month, enough to make ends meet, move out of the wash kitchen, and set aside money for an event almost twelve years into the future: the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

The Jesse Owens shoe
The Jesse Owens shoe

A week before the official start of the games, Adi Dassler rode a train from Herzogenaurach to Berlin, a multi-day adventure at the time, and talked his way into the US athletes’ quarters. There he picked the most athletic looking guy, a man by the name of Jesse Owens. Dassler explained, in broken English, that he had spikes that would improve anyone’s run and, after a simple handshake deal, had his first sponsored athlete. With this, Dassler became the first German company to sponsor anyone in sports and the first company worldwide to do so with an African American. Owens won four gold medals in Berlin, the highest at its time, which increased Dassler’s reputation manyfold, selling over 500,000 pairs of shoes between 1937 and 1939.

The Dassler’s factory was recommissioned in 1940 to produce weaponry, putting the brothers out of business. Poverty and living in close quarters in a town designated a major target for US air raids took its toll, cumulating in 1943 in a bunker near both families’ houses. Adi, entering the bunker, remarked that “those bastards are here again,” a comment his brother who’d arrived earlier with his wife, took to mean him.

Adi Dassler
Adi Dassler

The final split happened shortly after the end of the war when Rudolf was arrested and convicted of being a member of the Waffen SS (a bogus charge based on one of the bounty drives in which US GIs would give anyone money who could name a Waffen SS member in their street, often used to air pre-war grievances).

American troops marching on Nuremburg and Herzogenaurach had already placed charges and were waiting for order to blow up the Dassler’s factory on a rainy morning in April 1945 when Adi’s wife Käthe, a beautiful and smart woman who would later go on to be the brains behind most of Adidas’ operations and sales, convinced the Major in charge to spare the building and allow a restart of the shoe production lines. A few days later Mussolini and Hitler died, effectively ending war in Germany.

Despite strained relationships, requiring two similarly equipped offices at opposite ends of the building, the brothers resumed production, selling predominantly to US GIs and British soldiers. The memory of Jesse Owens aided sales with Adi once proudly proclaiming that “Blacks come from Berlin to buy my shoes.”

In October 1947, a few days after a particularly harsh fight between the brothers about a design decision on one of the shoes, Rudolf found himself locked out of his office. Adi Dassler (or, better, his wife) wasted no time, rebranding the company into the portmanteau Adi Dassler. Rudolf, meanwhile, started RuDa a mile away.

This was the beginning of two trailblazer sports companies. And, more interestingly, the world’s greatest commercial family feud. So big and well known was this rivalry that visitors and handymen alike would deliberately wear the other brothers’ shoes when visiting, knowing that both would hand them a new pair of their own shoes to wear before entering the house.

Rudolf Dassler
Rudolf Dassler

RuDa rebranded Puma in 1948 and scored a huge victory right from the start: Rudolf equipped the German soccer team with Puma boots and gear. Sponsorship rivalry saw its weirdest moment in 1960 when sprinter Armin Hary, having been rebuffed for his outrageous demands by Adidas, won gold in Pumas. Attempting to cash in on both companies he switched shoes to Adidas before the ceremony, leading to both brothers’ scorn and no payment at all with Adi banning Adidas from ever sponsoring a German sprinter again.

Rudolf Dassler died in 1974, his brother in 1978. They’re buried in the same cemetery but on exactly opposing sides.

Though many sports wear companies have learned from and copied Adidas, Nike would go on to surpass both and the rest. Nike was initially founded as Blue Ribbon Sports to distribute Adidas and Puma in the United States but, after both companies insisted on exclusive deals, imported Japanese shoes instead. And, sure, those Nike shoes are good, the swoosh is iconic, and the “Just Do It” on almost everything. But none of those upstarts can claim to have started on a stationary bike for electricity and to have torn asunder with its rivalries the very town it brought from a sleepy 1200 souls to a booming sports wear metropolis.

Twothousand Fourteen Health

It’s actually pretty cool to be sick in 2014. Not like the early naughts, the nineties, or — I presume — before that. Technology has made being not all upright a pretty easy and enjoyable (within the framework of, you know, being sick) affair.

My doctor emails me and responds to my inquiries via the same. He’s on Hangouts if I really need something quick, pops off when he’s off work, and can — in those cases where it’s warranted — initiate a quick video Hangout. My prescriptions are coded onto my health card, one swipe at the pharmacist’s and I get what I need, no chickenscratch accidents. If one of my renewals runs out I can SMS or email the lady in charge at the hospital and she’ll renew me, right there, while I wait at the pharmacy. I book my appointments online, my calendar gets an automatic sync and Google Now reminds me when to leave to be there in time.

Something like a three day fast can be researched from the comfort of my own office, the best resources marked and tagged in Google Stars for reading on the train.

A quick Google search and I am a member of three communities of people dealing with the same issues. Worst case I could find the appropriate Subreddit or even ask on Quora.

Detractors claim this takes away from the human contact. False, I say. I spend less time in solitary confinement inside waiting rooms and more time speaking to my caregivers and people like me. I miss no appointments and a coded health history and prescription record helps my pharmacy to have a chat with me about supplemental things and remedies. Because I found my doctor via a recommendation engine I have someone I trust completely that makes me feel cared for. The system knows I am no friend of faith healing or faith in general and abhor the abomination upon thinking homo sapiens that is homeopathy and other quack remedies of its ilk. It recommended accordingly, a fact that makes it easier to speak freely with my medical counterparts.

It’s not just being able to play Leo’s Fortune while waiting to have needles stuck into me. But it helps.