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  past petermemes

May 31, 2000
From my desk to yours.
People point me to stuff, thinking I'll like it, so I'll point you to it, for just that reason.

"No longer just eggheads, linguists leap to the Net" (from Harold)

Um. I guess that's it. I thought there were more.

Where O Where? Just found out that the folks who host peterme.com (for free) have decided to get out of the charitable ISP game (with good reason). So I need to find this site a new home. Any suggestions?

May 30, 2000
A whole new world.
Marc Rettig has posted the slides and commentary to his presentation, "Architecture for Use: ethnography and information architecture". Well worth a read.

Not that you need distractions. But you really out to check out the Arcata Eye Police Log, where entries are titled:

"Hirsute hepsters hopped up on Mary Jane"
"Bongos throb; hoboes mob; aggros blather, bleat in gobs"
"Dumpsters: go for the garbage, stay for the comfort"
"Begone from this place, o solipsistic swarm"

May 25, 2000
With an exclamation point.
Now that I bike 6 miles to work, I've needed to way up my water intake. In that spirit, I'm thinking of renaming myself Hydrato! With an exclamation point, like Yahoo! I will need an aqua Spandex suit, a cape, and a water molecule logo on my chest. I suppose I will vanquish the forces of thirst. Hydrato!
Addenda: Judith has offered up this rendering of Hydrato!:

Struggle for stark nakedness! Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries offers up a selection of funny and thoughtful Flash word art pieces.

This is your brain on the Web. The folks who gave you The Brain now bring you WebBrain, a visualization interface to the Open Directory Project. It's better for searching broad items ('architecture') than more specific ones ('interface design'). And there's a certain irony of taking The Brain, designed explicitly as a tool for archiving your digital data non-hierarchically (or with very limited hierarchy), and slapping it onto a massive taxonomy. (via ResearchBuzz)

May 24, 2000
My time in Copenhagen.
I've finally written it all up. I've been wanting to make it better, but I know if I don't get it done now, I never will. I just want to give a huge thanks to the remarkably gracious Reboot folks, who made my time in Copenhagen delightful and unforgettable. I'll be going back.

May 16 - Takeoff
Throw everything I'm taking into two backpacks. I hate checking in baggage. Call a cab, which arrives to whisk me towards SFO. As I step out of the car, but before I close the door, a flash hits me, "OH FUCK I FORGOT MY PASSPORT." Get back in the cab, head home, retrieve passport, return to the airport. One trip for the price of three!
Purchase magazines (The New Yorker, Entertainment Weekly (a must for air travel), and something *really* puffy--oh yeah, Wired) and board the plane. Stretch out in my luxurious middle seat on the left side of the cabin, and devour EW, Wired, V for Vendetta, and a photocopy of a series of essays published by The Comics Journal in response to Understanding Comics (thanks Cam!). Oh, and write my presentation.

At some point relative to an observer it became...

May 17 - Arrival
...and I was still on the plane, which landed at 9 or so in the morning in Munich. I went from daylight to daylight--all the window blinds were down during the brief night.

Disorientation begins to set in.

Stumble about Munich International Airport as I have 3 hours to kill before my connecting flight. Exchange $20 for Deutsche Marks, eat food, drink beer, continue reading TCJ. Wait. Sweat (I'm wearing a fairly heavy shirt and a jacket and a baseball cap and it's getting on being a while since I showered).

Board the flight to Kopenhagen, crash out for one whole hour. Landing, I'm greeted at the airport by Peter, who has been sent to take me to my hotel, the Scandic by the planetarium. Where I freshen up, flip through some TeeVee channels, and then head downstairs to meet Nikolaj.

Nikolaj is in charge of showing me around Copenhagen before dinner, so we head out for a wander on the city's streets...

...and right into various phalanxes of armed guards. Tonight is the big football match between Turkey and England--citizens of each country have taken to the streets of Wonderful Copenhagen®, turning the municipality into one giant beer hall, replete with moronic fight songs (most of which are to the tune of Volare). At a previous match between the two countries, two Brits (or was it Turks?) were killed by fans of the opposing team, so tensions are high. I hear that there have been actual riots, and people hurt, and that the Danish police are wholly unequipped for anything more serious than a jaywalking offense.

Avoiding the hub-bub and just-falling rain, Nikolaj takes me to Europa, a bar/coffeehouse, where we fill each other in on our lives up until now. He runs Speednames.com, an internationally-aware domain name registration service that can automatically register all available TLDs for your domain (but do I *really* need peterme.dk?). More importantly, he introduces me to hyldeblomst, a delightfully refreshing drink made from elderberry flowers, that is something of The National Drink of Denmark.

Oh, and don't bother trying to pronouce 'hyldeblomst' or any Danish word you come across. It involves swallowing every other letter, and other odd utterings, like the sound "oo" for the letter "y." "Tycho Brahe" (famed Danish astronomer) is pronounced something like "too-koh bra" with some heavy breathing at the end.

The evening is spent at Thorsen, a restaurant/club across the water in the eastern part of town. There I meet all the Reboot folks, as well as the other speakers. The latter included Brain-iac Jerry Michalski (and his delightful wife, Jen), design guru Nathan Shedroff, VC maven Ann Winblad, and the irrepressible Chris "RageBoy" Locke.

Throughout the evening Ann is beside herself with giddiness, having witnessed the riots from the balcony of her hotel room, hordes of hooligans approaching each other across the town square like something out of Braveheart. The glee ratchets up as she describes the deployment of tear gas, which got caught in a wind and headed straight for her. Much more interesting than the Scandinavian boat ride she'd taken the night before.

The dinner, supplied by Base Camp, a local catering company, is mighty tasty, setting a trend that continues throughout my Copenhagen stay--*great* food. Healthy portions of a hearty variety of foods, cooked remarkably well. The meal ends with fresh strawberries and cream, which we are informed is the traditional dessert of Denmark.

Another trend set is an obsession with the beauty and charm of the Danish people. Jen develops the most delightfully girlish crush on Christian, a tall, dark, handsome, man sporting a a few days worth of stubble, with a sweet soft speaking voice and friendly demeanor. Me, well, it takes me about 10 minutes to swoon over Nanna, the project manager for Operation Reboot, a classic beauty with strong, angular features, red hair, reddish-tan skin, and deep green green eyes.

Once dinner is finished, it doesn't take long for the group to head back to the hotel. By the time I hit the pillow, I've been up for 26 hours, minus 1 hour of sleep on the puddle jump..

May 18, 2000 - Conference

After a night of extremely fitful sleep (^#$%ing time change), our chariot (aka Christian) arrives and drives us to the Torpedohallen, a former military building where Reboot is taking place. The space is huge- easily over 100 yards long, 15-20 yards wide, ceilings about 30-40 feet above our heads.

Sitting, I down coffee in an effort to rev my engines. The first speakers are Chris (as RageBoy) and Jerry, who bedazzle the audience with their visionary approaches to commerce, the internet, people, community, and that most hated word, "consumer." All throughout Ann whispers comments in my ear, but, frankly, my neurons are all a bit too foggy to follow the proceedings.

Wandering around dazedly, I'm approached by an old Studio Archetype colleague, Erica Szabo. When she lived in San Francisco, I'd run into her all the time, and we'd joke about who was stalking whom. But she's moved to London, for Chrissakes, and I'm in freaking COPENHAGEN, and again I run into her! Odd little world.

Flagging on my feet, I sack out on a couch in the lounge in a desperate attempt to store some energy before my talk. After an hour of rest I'm, well, I'm not bright-eyed and bushy-tailed--more like 50-watt-eyed and reasonably-straight-tailed, so I continue with the coffee diet during Nathan's talk on Experience Design.

When he leaves the stage it's my turn, and after affixing the microphone to my head (it's one of those hands-free mikes that all the dance pop stars wear), saunter up to give my presentation. Surprisingly to myself, I'm not daunted when facing the largest crowd I've ever spoken to--roughly 2,500 attendees (about half of whom are paying attention--did I mention there was a bar running down the middle of the conference floor, serving drinks throughout the day? What this means is that it's okay they weren't paying attention).

Clicking through the slides any stage fright dissipates, replaced by a dread that my speech will run either way over or way under time. It's not a particularly stellar talk, but I get the User-Centered Design message out and am pretty much pleased with the reception.

Afterward I'm interviewed by a frightfully intelligent reporter for TVropa, the television arm of Lars von Trier's Zentropa media company. And I sleep some more.

All the speakers are then brought on stage to blather on about favorite "tools and gadgets" (my only interesting contribution is pointing to HyperSnap-DX, a fab screen-capture application that can snap entire web pages by automatically scrolling them). Ann laments the sorry state of email clients, lets us know that Microsoft has no plans for truly improving Outlook's email capabilities, and offers to fund, on-the-spot, any reasonable business plan for the development of a new email application. This gets my gears turning...

We take advantage of some free time before dinner to walk through nearby Christiana, the notorious "freetown" within Copenhagen, best known for Pusherstreet, its central thoroughfare where hash and pot are openly sold. Taken over by hippies in the 70s, Christiana is a delightfully funky locale, colorful and amiably run-down.

The dinner is a fabulous beef meal with all kinds of assorted cooked fresh veggies and cheese and bread and and and... A remarkable feat considering the number of mouths to feed. This is followed by the awards show, which is, of course, all in Danish, and thust mostly incomprehensible.

Between each award is a funny video vignette, such as the one where a man spills coffee on the kitchen table, and doesn't know what to do until a voice-over announcer reminds him of the many uses of Stock Options, which are shown dispensed from something like a Kleenex box (Stock Options are also good for wiping a baby's bottom).

The most surreal aspect of the awards are the little "Reboot" identification videos, similar to those wacky MTV station IDs, but, um, a little raunchier. Take, for example, the one with a fully-clothed Santa Claus fucking, doggy-style, a totally naked woman on a couch. A man sheepishly walks up to Santa from the back, and Santa, clearly frustrated with this interruption, briefly stops what he's doing to grab a present and aggressively tosses it behind him, ridding himself of the interloper so he can go back to the fucking.

Suffice to say it made the Webby Awards video bits seem like Care Bear fare.

Try as I might to keep with the party atmosphere, my lack of sleep becomes compounded by the onset of a head cold. Opting to not hole up in my hotel room for the next two days, I join Nathan for an early cab ride back to our quarters. It's quite difficult to hail a cab (there are not many, and the Danes are surprisingly aggressive at flagging them down), and we find ourselves sharing a ride with an amicably drunk man named Christian (you find out after a while that all Danish men are named Christian or Thomas), who regales us with tales of his brother's upcoming confirmation ceremony, and engages in other conversation. Arriving at our destination, Christian asks Nathan and I, in what becomes a plaintive tone, "Do you play backgammon?" but neither of us are willing to extend the night further, so we wish him well and head to bed.

May 19 - Talking
Oh God am I miserable this morning. My head full of snot. Slept terribly. But we have plans for the day, so I get myself out of bed, shower, and drift downstairs to the hotel restaurant for some breakfast to get me going. Sitting at the table, I stare blankly at the food that, when placed in my mouth, feels like eating paper. I ache all over. "Fuck it," I think, and return to bed.

After a couple hours of the best sleep I've had in days, I awaken to the sound of knocking on my door. It's Jen, making sure I know that folks are downstairs ready to go, and I head right down. In the lobby are Jen, Jerry, Chris, and Morten, our guide for the day.

The rhythm and pace of the day is set there in the lobby. As we drink our coffees and teas, Chris, who'd had his first good full night's sleep, regales us with stories. LSD stories, pot stories, booze stories. Working at IBM, writing for various publications, etc. Delightfully outrageous stories in which Chris usually does some dang-fool thing and yet makes his way out of the situation. We're in the lobby for two hours before we realize we should get out and see the city.

Morten takes us to Amokka, a cafe/restaurant where we brunch. (Friday is a national holiday in Denmark, Big Prayer Day, and so the restaurants are on weekend schedules. From what I gathered, Big Prayer Day came about because some King in years gone by thought there were too many holidays for too many different religions. So he created a single day all the country's religions observe.)

The stories from Chris continue. He's our Buddha, our sage, our Trickster, sticking it to his uptight bosses at IBM, stunning the business world with the success of Cluetrain. Jerry, Jen, and I enjoy the stories, and Morten is eating them up. Hanging on every word. It's like he can't believe his opportunity to be in the presence of this great man.

After brunch, Morten takes us to visit his office space, a bright open space reminiscent of many new media locales. From what I can gather, Morten's company, Prey4.com, is an incubator of sorts, developing ideas for startups and spinning them out. He's the "Chief Ideologist," which puts him in something of a creative director role. He's also quite the Renaissance man, having designed all the very cool modern furniture in the office--cool enough to have been featured in Wallpaper*.

Glancing through the bookshelves of the employees, I spot, next to a copies of Being Digital and other new economy tomes, a porn tape box, standing in full view, advertising "FUCKING AND SPERMSUCKING." The Danish definitely have a more relaxed attitude about certain matters.

From his current office space, Morten drives us to his soon-to-be corporate digs, which will be in the just-closed Tuborg brewery on the outskirts of town. It's a massive single room--8,000 square meters--that they'll be leasing for something on the order of 10 cents per square foot per month. A bunch of Danish startups will move in together, creating a new media hub. Right now, it's just a huge cement block, strewn with broken beer bottles and defunct equipment. Asked when they're expected to move in, Morten estimates, "Oh, 4 to 5 weeks." We'll see.

Our next stop is the must-see Little Mermaid sculpture. We park the car, and, looking around, see no sculpture. One of us asks Morten, "Where's the Little Mermaid?" to which he sheepishly replies, turning his head around, dragging on a cigarette, "Er, I don't know." He asks a couple passers-by to point us in the right direction. Upon arrival, we're struck by what strikes everybody--how small the sculpture is. It's use as a city icon suggests a certain size, but the Mermaid is little more than life size (well, depending on the size of a real life mermaid). There are about 20 other people standing around looking, taking pictures. We give her a wave and return to the car, and then our hotel, for a nice afternoon nap.

Following our naps, we meet downstairs to be transported in a 7-seater van to Schiott's, where we're joined by a bunch of other Rebooters for a marvelous 4 course meal. To everyone's delight, Chris continues pouring on the stories. Well, perhaps not the waiter's delight. For some reason, the waiter feels it necessary to announce every course (spring roll appetizer, gazpacho, a main course I'm totally blanking on, and a rhubarbs-and-ice cream-with-40%-butterfat dessert) in great detail. However, when the gazpacho is served, Chris is in the middle of a rather long tale, necessitating the waiter to hang around, shifting from foot to foot, for many minutes before it is over.

Me? Well, I love the food, but feel like something of an idiot, as I'm seated next to the swoon-worthy Nanna, but my head cold makes thoughts all foggy, and I prove to be a terrible conversationalist.

The meal ends our day, and we're escorted home to our hotel.

May 20, 2000 - Sightseeing
Lord be praised. A decent night's sleep. Not unbroken, but I take in a good 10 hours of shuteye before I get up. My sinuses are still stuffy, but my head doesn't throb like it has been.

Today we are fetched by Christian, who drives Jerry, Chris, and I to the center of town, where we wait for the others to join us. The day before, Jen mentioned her desire to engage in that most womanly of travel adventures, Going Shopping, and Nanna arranged for them to hit the stores this morning. So, they now meet up with us, pink bags in hand, having done a fair amount of credit card damage at a clothing store called Pour Quoi (where Nanna is on a first-name business with the staff). Thomas, Michael, and Joe also meet up, and our first stop is brunch along the water.

I'm getting quite bored with describing the glories of Danish cooking. The brunch was what was becoming standard Danish fare--a tasty and fresh combination of meats, vegetables, and breads. We sit on a bench on a little pier in a little lake, sun beating down on us. All quite divine.

After brunch we drive up to Louisiana, a modern art museum just outside of town. More a park than a museum, the exhibit space is much smaller than, say, the SFMOMA, and the collection isn't of significant interest (though the temporary Warhol exhibit allowed me to see in person works I'd only seen reproduced--though, I guess, with Warhol, the whole notion of 'reproduction' gets called into question). But the museum's grounds are amazing, grassy, rolling hills, right along the water. There are more children than I'd ever seen in a modern art museum, and they (rightfully) treat the whole set-up as one big play space.

We down our beers on the grass behind the museum, and enjoy a delightfully loopy Pipilotti Rist video installation Sip My Ocean, featuring an off-key warbling of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game", and continue on our journey to right outside Elsinore Castle.Yep, the same Elsinore where the Melancholy Dane resided.

But first, we nobble ice cream from what I gather is a well-known scoop store (showcasing a picture of Cary Grant eating there!), serving five different flavors (vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, pistachio, and nougat) in freshly-made waffle cones. After that and a little walk, we're all a bit too tired and cranky for a real trip to the castle, so we drive by it, wave, and return to the city proper for a night in Tivoli Gardens, renowned as the world's oldest amusement park.

We wander aimlessly a bit, find some coffee to get us going, and then head to a Chinese restaurant in a wonderfully tacky faux pagoda. Happily, the buffet is pretty good (and the deep fried shrimp were very very deep fried.... breading... drool).

After dinner, Thomas takes us to Valhal, an "experience" ride, where you enter the land of giants or something. It's a bit like one of the 'enchanted' rooms at Disneyland, with audioanimatronic birds talking and big goofy moving statues, and it ends with the crowd sitting on a ship that, through the Power of Illusion, turns all the way over. All in good silly fun.

We follow Valhal with the girls' quest for cotton candy, and while picking at wispy flecks of sugar, pass one of those games where you whack a plank with a mallet in order to ring the bell. A couple of fairly burly guys are faring poorly, rarely getting above 600 (on a scale of a 1000). Christian tells us, "I've got to do this," saunters up to the gizmo, and proceeds, twelve times in a row, to ring the bell. Clang! Clang! Clang!. The crowd loves it, as, of course, do we. Who knew we had a strongman in our little group?

To top this thrill, at 11:45p we witness an inventive fireworks show. As the hour grows later, my throat constricts, and my nose drips, and it's difficult for me to enjoy hanging out. Happily, we soon head home, and I head to bed...

May 21 -- Return

... and maybe 4 hours of fitful sleep before I get up and get ready to go. An uneventful ride to the airport and flight to Munich is made, err, interesting when, after boarding the plane, we're alerted of a "fuel leak," and asked to deplane. So another 5 hours is spent wandering the Munich airport and trying to catch up on some sleep.

We eventually board and about an hour and a half in the air an attendant announces over the P.A. that because even though the fuel leak had been repaired, there was not enough time to fully fuel the plane, and in order to ensure making it all the way to SF, excess weight was removed--namely, all the checked-in baggage. I do a little dance in my seat, as I 'mtravelling only with two carry-on bags--all that lugging proved worthwhile!

I share a taxi ride home with a man who had been sitting in my row. Chatting in the cab, I learn he works at Hot Studio, which wouldn't be remarkable, except that there are only ten employees there, and I know two of them. So, unknowingly, I had flown across continents sitting next to a man who works with one of my best friends.

And now I'm home.

Two more bits on Copenhagen for those who have read this far:

1. Everyone bicycles. It's delghtful. Though more and more of us bicycle in San Francisco, within the city it's still considered something of a fringe form of travelling. In Copenhagen, you see the young and old, mothers toting children, people going to work, everyone on a bike. And visitors can get in on the fun--anyone can pick up a City Bike from a marked rack for 20 kroner, which is returned when you park it at another rack. For the bike-centeredness alone, I'd be willing to move there.

2. All that hearty Copenhagen cooking I was discussing? Well, um, this will be a very Guy thing to relate, but, man, did it make my stool firm. I haven't shit so well in months.