San Francisco – day 3 (a parrot)

A rainy day. I got some work done in the morning. Waking up at 5am means I’m productive until about 3pm when I start to glaze and drift off. I went for a walk in the rain, and in the evening. met up with local IBMers Doug, Tanaz and Steve for drinks at The Grove and a delicious meal at the Three Seasons. A great night out, and it’s so nice to meet up with other people when over on a trip like this.

Before going out for the evening I had the strange experience of having my room upgraded, thanks to a pet parott. Late in the afternoon a loud, annoying and intermittent squawking sound began to come from the door opposite mine. I ignored it at first, but after half an hour of putting up with it opened my door to work out what was going on. I heard not just squawking, but also softer fluttering bird noises, and decided to phone reception in case a bird had flown in through an open window. Security came up, and discovered the noise was coming from a caged parott which had been left alone in the room with the TV on for company. Parott made sense. Pigeons don’t squawk like that. There was some debate between security and the hotel management about whether a parott is an viable pet for a hotel guest, but since the bird’s owner was not around there was not much the hotel could do about it other than move me to another room. From the 36th to the 41st floor in one swift exchange of key cards.

Suite on the 41st floor

And so my last night here is spent in a stupidly big suite with an even better view of the city, which is currently shrouded in fog.

Foggy night Foggy night Foggy night Foggy night

San Francisco – day 1 (settling in)

Tuesday was a day to settle in and get some work done from the comfort of my 36th-floor room at the Hilton on O’Farrell St. Being not quite on UK time, but at least somewhere transatlantic, meant I went to bed at around 9pm and woke up at 5am, something I plan to keep up for the rest of the trip to make re-adjustment easier.

I spent some of the morning in Second Life, hanging out in the new IBM complex which opened this weekend. I met one person, and was IMd by another, wondering how they go about joining IBM. I now have the IBM employment page bookmarked, ready to pass on to people who ask this.

In the afternoon I went for a walk. San Francisco is a strange city. Almost European, if it were not for the familiar names (Macy’s, Subway, Quiznos) and white-toothed smiling friendly staff in every shop. It also has a lot of homelessness, more strikingly so than London. I’ve always assumed this is because of the temperate microclimate. It’s actually rather unusually chilly this week, but still around 9oC.

I wandered around the city, not even bothering to avoid the bits the hotel receptionist had suggested I avoid (it was daylight after all) and very quickly ended up at the Weinstein gallery where, while staying at this same hotel, I had unintentionally posed as an art collector back in 2001. I crossed Market Street into the North of the city, and explored 4th and 5th, down to the Metreon Center (which seems less exciting than it did 4 years ago) and the Yerba Buena Gardens.

San Francisco Shopping Center Yerba Buena Gardens Buildings, reflected Tramlines Market Street

The meeting I’m here for is tomorrow. Then on Thursday I have a chance to meet some West Coast friends while I’m in town.

San Francisco – day 0 (getting there)

A 6:30am pickup from home to get to Heathrow, with a long dark and rainy journey by car before the day has even really begun.

Having boarded the VS19 from Heathrow to San Francisco I read half of ‘Love and Other Near Death Experiences’ by Mil Millington (author of Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About). I have a terribly short attention span on planes, and in between watching the best Virgin Atlantic’s TV-on-demand service had to offer me (Clerks II, Miami Vice, Extras, The IT Crowd, …) I tried the onboard ‘CD Jukebox’. Highlights included:

  • Anthony and the Johnsons, I am a Bird Now – eerily wonderful, though not exactly easy listening. ‘Hope There’s Someone’ is still the outstanding track on that album,
  • Audiobullys, Generation – Highly dissapointing. Espectially “shot me down”. Don’t get me wrong, I love repetitive glitchhop as much as the next guy, but it’s not flying music. I did give the rest of the album a chance, but there were too many predictable rhyming couplets for my liking. The only entertainment was trying to guess the next line.
  • Coldplay, X&Y – I know it’s not cool like Coldplay. I still say it’s not a bad album though.
  • Green Day, Bullet in a Bible – the live album I’d not heard of. There is a place for live albums. Ben Folds Live, for example, is stunningly good, but this is like sing-a-long-a-green-day, and very bad.
  • Green Day, American Idiot – Now we’re talking. I’m not a part of a redneck agenda.
  • Ian Brown, The Greatest – ooh. Retro fun.
  • The Killers, Sam’s Town – not heard the whole album before. Some good stuff here.
  • Nick Drake, Bryter Later – oh yes. After the Killers we had scrolling action between Krrish through to Nelly Furtado, … and then this. Great stuff.
  • Nirvana, Nevermind – double yes.

I also, as always, spent some time walking around the plane taking photos out of the windows. Great views of the Rocky Mountains.

Wing Ice Look at the view Rocky Mountains Glint

I then turned my laptop on to catch up on some podcasts. Without really thinking where I was I found myself reflexively searching for available wireless networks (there were none) before realising it’s probably frowned upon. It’s a shame. Wireless would really have made the time pass very easily. Trains and planes would make perfect mobile wireless hotspots.

Sigh. I know it’s worse going East, but I hate flying transatlantic in either direction. Jetlag is like a nights missed sleep without even having a really good party to show for it; being cooped up in a metal tube being fed rubbish is not my idea of an enjoyable 10 hours. I spent most of the flight looking forward to landing, stretching my legs and chilling out.

San Francisco - The view from my window

Arrived at the hotel (the Hilton on O’Farrell St) and had to admire the view for a while. Now I need to eat.

Not just a Min

Mrs Roo and I picked up a Labradoodle puppy yesterday. We have named her Amiina (after one of our favourite Icelandic bands), but she is already also known as Min and sometimes Minnie.

Amiina - ready to pounce

Her mother is a chocolate brown lab, and her dad a black show poodle. At 11 weeks old she is very labrador-like. Whether her coat will remain so dark and straight is unsure. First generation (F1) labradoodle’s vary greatly, but one this is for sure: she’s staggeringly cute and it’s already clear she is a lovely dog. Playful yet gentle, intelligent and calm.

We picked Min up from the breeder yesterday, stopping at the vet on the way home. She was weighed, vaccinated, ID chipped, and given a worming tablet, none of which she seemed to mind at all. We’ve been house training her, which just involves a lot of watching, instant removal to outside at the appropriate moment and lots of praise. It’s going well. After less than 24 hours she’s already letting us know she wants to go outside when she needs the toilet. Even better: she didn’t wake us last night (no mess to clean up in the morning. Hoping that continues). I’m quite enjoying the responsibility, as well as the fun, of having a puppy.

I have to leave Rachel with Min all of next week, so I’ve been getting my share of play in this weekend. I had a lovely moment earlier when I introduced her to the beautiful music of the band whose name she shares. The dog has taste, and listened attentively with me, gradually relaxing on my lap and falling asleep.

I wonder if I can sneak them both into California with me in my suitcase?

Update: ‘Amiina’ soon became simplified to ‘Amina’. She’s still “Min” most of the time.

More photos

Business Communicators of Second Life – today’s meeting

I was delighted to be asked to present at today’s meeting of the Business Communicators of Second Life.

I decided to keep it fresh by not pre-preparing my presentation, and typed the whole thing as I went. I took questions as I went, which really helped as I was able to adjust what I was saying based on what people were interested in hearing.

We met on Info island, where I counted 23 people in the audience, including the fabulous Torley.

I mainly covered the history of what IBMers have been doing in Second Life, how we got where we are, and what IBM’s recent announcements will mean. (By the way, I really must blog on Eightbar about the new 12-sim complex IBM announced today. Perhaps I’ll stay up and do that now). Inevitably, the conversation was wider than just Second Life, and we talked a bit about the virtual universe and the 3D Internet.

Linda has the transcript up on the SL Business Communicators blog, but I’ve uploaded it here too.

SF Molecular Avatar Meetup

I’m going out to San Francisco next week, and it’s a good opportunity for me to meet some friends (many of whom I’ve only every met virtually until now) while I’m out there.

I’ve met a lot of people this year, so I’d like to open the invitation up. If you’d like to get together, and can make it to The Grove on Chestnut Street on Thur 21st from 6pm onwards, it would be great to hear from you.

More details, and a chance to register your interest, at

A trip down memory lane

This weekend was a trip down memory lane, for my parents at least. I wasn’t even born when they lived in Wandsworth, but Rachel and I enjoyed joining them on a tour of their old haunts on Saturday.

The Park Tavern Woodhams House Woodhams House

On Saturday night we celebrated Uncle Terry’s 40th birthday, and it was excellent to meet my brother’s Finnish (but currently living and working in Iceland) girlfriend Hanna. She is quite the whizz with a camera, having captured some excellent shots of the Airwaves festival this year, and some lovely shots of my brother (I really love this action shot).

Music Ally debate

The Music Ally debate I mentioned the other day was a pretty cool event. A good panel discussion, lots of interesting people and nice nibbles. It was good to catch up with Alan Patrick again. Digging around the blogs, it seems Stuart Dredge from Tech Digest was there too.

Music Ally event

After Justin from Rivers Run Red talked about some of their events (as well as some interesting comments on scaleability, tax and anti-griefing), the biggest portion of the evening was the discussion panel. It included…

  • Christian from Sulake (who has the best business card I’ve ever seen; it’s in the form of some stickers) reminded us all that Habbo has no user-generated content, and is instead a toybox of Sulake-generated content. 80-90% of their money comes from selling furniture to their users. Personally, it’s the fact that virtual worlds like Second Life are almost entirely user-generated that make them compelling. I’ve never tried Habbo though.. so perhaps I’m missing something.
  • Hans from ProMediaLabs talked about the Hedrons gig they ran, as well as their new system for online jamming which is being demonstrated in Second Life soon. (Incidently, the online jam tool they’ve created reminds me of Ninjam, though I should really try it out to compare them properly).
  • Daniel Heaf from the BBC told the audience that hosting the One Big Weekend in Second Life was the obvious thing to do, given their mission to bring people as close to the music as possible.
  • Barney Wragg from EMI (recently moved from Universal) raised some very relevant points regarding copyright. He pondered how anyone would be able to measure promotional and commercial return on virtual events. The discussion on IP rights was pretty heated (Barney’s obvious take: there has to be compensation for IP rights owners). One questioner asked whether steaming needs to be, or can bem monitored.

Given the audience (a good cross section of music industry and tech), I would have liked to spend longer thinking and talking about copyright and IP rights. I can’t help thinking that artists and labels have barely begun to discover the potential of virtual worlds, but that perhaps some of the biggest possibilities will mean letting go of the reigns slightly and allowing the fans to be the evangelists.

Reading list

I’ve decided to keep a reading list, by tagging books on as I start reading them (or finish them, can’t decide. Probably some combination of the two). Amazon seemed like a natural choice for the destination web link, but I wondered if there was an alternative. It seems many books have their own website. For the rest of this post, I’m going to try to link to an obvious page, rather than the easy choice, just to see if it can be done.

Some books you just know you’ll go back to again. This list of books to re-read is partly for my own benefit, to remind myself to pick them up again in the new year.

I finally read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell recently (which he could have compressed into the first chapter. I got what he was trying to say very quickly, and most of the book was repetition), which made me think I should probably also get round to reading his earlier book, The Tipping Point. Also, I’ve never read Friedman’s The World is Flat. Should I?

Oh, and despite all of the above, most of what I read is actually fiction.. (I’m currently reading and enjoying The Life of Pi).

Music Ally – the debate

If you keep an eye on my ‘Events’ section (via my profile) over there in the sidebar (→) you’ll have noticed that I’m attending The Music Ally Debate tomorrow entitled “Virtual Worlds – Real Potential“. In fact, I’m not just attending, I’m a panelist. Here’s the list…

  • Barney Wragg, global head of digital, EMI Music
  • Daniel Heaf, interactive editor, BBC Radio 1
  • Roo Reynolds, metaverse evangelist, IBM Labs
  • Paul Van Gerven, founder, PVG Virtual Concerts
  • Christian Batist, regional director Europe, Sulake / Habbo Hotel

Also worthy of note: Justin Bovington (CEO of Rivers Run Red) will be giving a presentation. Having seen Justin present at the NMK conference I am looking forward to meeting up again.

The journey there will coincide with the BBC Radio 4’s call for listeners to send in a photo taken at 5pm, so my photo will probably be on board an SWT train somewhere between Southampton to Waterloo.