Ben Folds: gig of the year

Apologies to anyone I meet today. If I’m tired and grumpy it’s only because I’m still recovering from a very late night. I went to the Ben Folds gig in Second Life and, since it was scheduled for early evening in the US, I did not get to sleep until 3am. I see Ian has already written up the event at Eightbar and it looks like Eric Rice (aka Spin Martin) is working on something too. TheSuburbs.org.uk has a roundup of Ben’s busy day yesterday. Here are my thoughts.

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Ben Folds perform live twice now. The first time was back when he was still being Ben Folds Five, and more recently on his solo tour. Both were stunning, mind-blowing gigs but last night topped them both.

The reason was not the stage set, the lighting or even the sound quality (all good) but just the raw craziness in the room. Ben was a surprisingly adept Second Life user considering most of us assumed it was his first time. It’s possible he was getting a little help from the sheep. I know that Jerry Paffendorf (aka SNOOPYbrown Zamboni) was there with him in person, and was managing to both do a good job and, by the sound of it, have a whale of a time. (Incidently, I don’t think Cory Edo, who built Ben’s avatar for him, was there in person, which is a shame since she did a great job and is a huge fan.)

Ben Folds avatar (small)

So.. it was a good gig. How can anyone fail to be impressed by a singer/songwriter whose first appearence in Second Life includes:

  • an audio stream (live chat from the studio and tasters from the new album).
  • Typed chat, complete with paying attention to what the crowd were doing and saying. It was very clearly him too. No corporate sleezeball pupeteer is going to make a Ben Folds avatar say “stand back bitches” at the top of the show.
  • The use of the Duff beer can attachement, complete with falling down drunk animation.
  • Shirtless Ben, encouraging others to join him in taking off their shirts.
  • Lightsaber fighting. Choice quotes: “does anyone want to fight?”, “if you’ll put down the nunchucks i will fight you”, “it’s not fair if you have nunchucks”

In short, it was wild. It was the sort of experience which, in real life, you might get once in a lifetime with an artist who just wants to party with the fans.

Update: Giff Constable has written up a very even-handed report of the evening.

A tale of four countries

Yesterday morning I was in London Heathrow. I arrived an unusual 2-and-a-half hours before my flight, since I was warned I’d need to check in early to ensure I got a seat. Having arrived, and undergone the usual indignity of removing my shoes, I waited around for BA to decide (and then change their mind about) which gate it would be leaving from.

I found a BT Openzone wifi sofa. It turned out to be a pay-for service (which I decided against, since I’d checked emails earlier in the morning) but it did offer Nintendo DS online action for free, which worked well. I have been trying (and failing) to get this working at home with my Belkin G+ MIMO wireless router, so the opportunity to play Mario Kart DS against a random person from Japan was a pretty exciting experience, though slighty jerkier than I’d hoped.

Leslie (‘Dirty Den’) Grantham, Duncan (‘Blue’) James and Peter (‘Drugs’) Doherty provided discussion-fodder for the daytime TV that was playing on an enormous (and very loud) plasma TV screen in Terminal 4. This made me feel slightly old, as well as a little unfamous because I went to school with both Duncan and Peter and they are both, in their very different ways, fairly big celebrities now. Fern Britton and Peter Schofield were presenting one show; both were being very patronizing and clearly talking down to the grannies who make up most of their audience. Peter Schofield looks pretty old himself now, and Fern Britton surely shows both too much cleavage and leg to be popular with the granny crowd.

I bought a banana at WHSmiths, just because they had a fruit selection instead of the usual range of sweets at the tills. One step closer to five portions a day (a hard target, since apparently chips don’t count).

I landed in Switzerland (half an hour late. Why are airports so congested at the moment?) Basel is so close to France that the airport has both a French entrance and a Swiss entrance. I took the Swiss one, and was driven (across the border and into Germany) to the hotel in Badenweiler. This seems to rhyme with ‘Rottweiler’ rather than ‘three-wheeler’. My German is so bad that this was my only means of getting it right. Most unfair on such a beautiful town to remember it in terms of a vicious dog.

The hotel was very comfortable. I was there to meet a customer and present ‘Web 2.0, Emerging Technologies and Virtual Worlds’ as part of an innovation workshop they were running. They seemed pretty satisfied by the whole thing, and it led to some great conversations and a good discussion over lunch too. Just as well, as is was a long way to come for a two hour prentation.

This afternoon I came back to Basel airport (only about 18 hours after having left it) via France. Hat trick; three countries on the trip, or four if you count the UK.

Basel airport Venting Basel airport - autostitched - cropped Reflections and shadows Quiet

I also took a quick snap of myself on one of the moving walkways in the airport, which came out so well that I’ve cropped it to be the new header image for this blog.

As with Zurich recently, some interesting clouds on the way back too.

Cotton wool Layers Orange Sunset clouds Contrail

LinkedIn is missing something

I have been a reasonably happy user of LinkedIn for over a year now connecting with other linkedin realtors, but I’m getting frustrated.

It’s not the ads. Although they did recently add (fairly badly targetted, given the available data) adverts, including some nasty flash ads and even the odd popup, that’s fine. I use Firefox and Adblock handily copes with the ugliest intrusions, and well targetted text ads are actually potentially useful. (Yes, I have bought products and services based on the text ads in Gmail. I have grown to quite like them).

It’s not actually anything about the site that’s wrong, it’s more the lack of something. What LinkedIn is missing is services. The only way to use LinkedIn is through their website. It offer no REST services, no APIs at all, and not even any Atom or RSS feeds.

This is not new news (people have complained about the lack of web services exposed by LinkedIn for ages. Cote’ has interesting thing to say about it too. into , but I’m dissapointed because of the new “Services” tab which was recently introduced…

LinkedIn Services cropped

“Oh!”, I thought. “They’ve finally seen sense and added some web services“. No such luck. It’s a list of service providers recommended by people in your network. Useful, perhaps, but not at all what I was hoping for.

It’s my data. I want to be able to access it, mash it up, draw graphs of my network and generally have fun with it. And I’m not alone. I can only just imagine the quantity of cool stuff that the world would produce within 24 hours of a REST service being introduced.

New router

While I was away last week my wife had to cope with a dying wireless router, which began fizzing to signify the end of its useful life. I’m not a hardware expert, but I’ve always believed routers shouldn’t fizz.

A quick trip to the local peripherals shop, and we are the proud new owners Belkin G+ MIMO ADSL modem router thingy. It was fairly cheap, was super easy to set up, and, so far at least, doesn’t make any fizzing noises.

Being back on the internet again is a warm, relief-filled feeling.

Surfing stag weekend

I had the huge honour this weekend of organising Nick‘s stag do. I wanted to do something he’d really enjoy, and as I knew he was a bit of a surfer a weekend in Woolacombe seemed ideal.

The Cabin Golden country Sunset #82 The surfing stags Standing proof

Seven of us squeezed into a cute little log cabin on Friday night before surfing all day on Saturday. Although many of us were novices the instructor was excellent and we were all just about standing by the end of the day. Having a dedicated surf photographer in the sea with us was really helpful, and meant we ended up with some great action shots.

I want to surf some more… once my muscles have recovered.

Slashdotted

I had my first Slashdotting last night (albeit an indirect one via 3pointD). Watching the server logs on Eightbar and seeing the hits come in thick and fast has been pretty interesting. Looks like Slashdot readers use Firefox, IE 6, Netscape 4 and Safari in the order. I’ve had to bite my tongue a couple of times while reading the comments, opting to put up an comment on Eightbar rather than reply directly so far.

One particular Slashdot comment really caught my eye; someone raised the issue of POV-Ray -> Second Life conversion. I’ve played with POV-Ray a little bit, and I think this would be a really cool hack and would lead to some pretty cool builds.

Danbury and Somers and Southbury (Oh my!)

I arrived in NY last night, landing at JFK airport for the first time.

The flight was ok. Just about comfortable, though I’m sure the leg room has gone down in the past couple of years. I read a lot of ‘Blood Sweat and Tea‘ by Tom Reynolds (no relation). It’s the dead tree version of his blog, and therefore just as good, and more convenient to read on a plane. I also played a lot of Tony Hawk American Sk8land on the DS lite. Along with Mario Kart, it really is one of the best DS games I’ve seen. I had no idea it could be so fast and smooth.

Having landed, the next step was US immigration. I want to make a quick detour here. The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Department’s pledge states that:

  • We pledge to cordially greet and welcome you to the United States.
  • We pledge to treat you with courtesy, dignity, and respect.
  • and it goes on.

Frankly, they could do a better job at both the cordial greeting and the courtesy and respect. Passengers were shouted at, snapped at and herded from one line to another like animals. I don’t mind the fingerprinting and photographing, but the treatment from the assisting staff was very uncomfortable.

I picked up my hire car. It was predictably not the ‘compact’ I asked for, but rather a mid-sized SUV. At least it’s not the minivan they wanted to give me. Despite my tiredness, the danger of my car rolling (worringly pointed out in a big yellow sticker on the sun visor) and the confusing differences in the road system over here, I managed to enjoy the journey and made it safely to Danbury. it’s a beautiful drive, and once out of the city becomes very leafy. As Darren pointed out to me, the journey will be even more stunning in a few weeks when the leaves start to turn red.

I met up with Ian in the hotel bar last night (who has been on the West coast for a week already and also arrived at New York this weekend). Hamburger, fries, Budweiser and Sam Adams while Comedy Central played on the big screen TV above our heads. You couldn’t get more American really.

We’re off to Somers today and tomorrow, and Southbury on Wednesday. These are just place names, unless you’re a fellow IBMer. These places (along with Poughkeepsie, Fishkill, Armonk… especially Armonk) have a deep and significant resonance in the heart of any IBMer, even one usually based in the UK. Having soaked in the culture and history of Big Blue for nine years, I’m actually quite excited to be visiting some of these East coast locations for the first time. What makes it even cooler is that I’m here to meet my teammates and managers, and it’s the first face-to-face our team has had. Ian and I have already been making ourselves very busy doing the Virtual Worlds / Metaverse Evangelist thing recently, so it’s going to be good to catch up with our wider team.

SketchUp -> Second Life exporter

I managed to combine three of my favourite things yesterday: SketchUp, Ruby and Second Life.

SketchUp to Second Life export (simple)

I’ve written up the hack over at Eightbar. I’m still polishing it, but let me know if you’d like to have a go at it.

Update: I’m collecting coverage of the hack:

NMK MMO conference

The page for NMKs’ My So-called 2nd Life conference just got updated, so I can confirm that I’ll be speaking. Hurrah.

Also presenting are

Updated (2st October) with latest speaker list