July 20, 2010

Street Meat

Filed under: beauty,food,interfaces,life,travel,weird — mhoye @ 1:57 pm

Taste is so tightly bound to memory that I have a hard time believing that I can appreciate or even even taste food on its own, in a void of context. I wonder how many of my likes, dislikes, loves and hates are like that; not about the thing, but the echoes of memory that come with it, the place I was, the people I was with. And the person I was, maybe, and let’s not pretend there’s not some tightly-wound feedback loops in that part of your brain.

I have some fairly clear insight into some of these things, introspectives that come to me at odd moments and are often a little to easy to romanticize, but I think I should make a habit of being as honest as I can with myself about my motives in loving and hating what I do.


This all occurred to me while I was putting some sauerkraut on a street dog down at Yonge and Dundas today. If you’d told me once upon a time that cabbage fermented in vinegar was delicious, I would have told you that was a lie, because that’s not even food and what the hell is wrong with you. But at some point in my childhood I’d read an Encyclopedia Brown mystery in which Bugs Meany is caught out in some scam involving a rare penny by a miscue involving mustard and sauerkraut. I remembered that (and even remember remembering it, oddly) but I don’t think I’d ever actually seen the stuff in the wild until my family went to New York to visit some relatives. I might have been ten, maybe? Eleven? And I’m pretty sure that was the first time I had a dog from a street vendor, and a pretzel, remembering Bugs Meany and giving it a try.

And I still don’t think I know what sauerkraut tastes like on its own. Whatever else it is, to me it tastes just a little bit like the completely uncynical, unalloyed joy of being eleven years old and seeing New York for the first time.

Today at Yonge and Dundas, for no obvious reason, there were a couple of kids playing some classic eighties hiphop on a big old boom box at the corner, dressed in old-school Adidas jackets and (yes!) hustling people at three-card monte. Some days I think these things are part of some elaborate Truman Show production, staged just for blissfully ignorant me. That can’t be, can it? It seems unlikely, but thanks either way, random kids. I know it’s a long story, but because of you my lunch tasted even better today.

November 26, 2009

A Thousand Roads To Nowhere

Filed under: analog,doom,future,interfaces,life,lunacy,travel — mhoye @ 1:15 am

One Stem

This has been making the rounds recently, an article on how America is all infrastructure, and no people. It’s trite, but the old line about the difference between European and North American cities is that European cities were built for people; the cars got there later. In North America it’s the other way around.

So, cities are built for cars and the people get there later, but what if the people never get there? Turns out, we have an answer for that now. Take a look at this.

Google’s street view of this is fantastic, particularly if you slide back up from it to an overhead view of what’s around you. There’s nothing there, nothing but sand and old road.

The same thing has happened here; a city laid out for cars where the people never showed up. It’s incredibly bleak, and of all the things you can read into this I think what strikes me most is the utter disdain for organic growth and the incredible confidence in the planned-out city being the inevitable future. Why else would you put down that much asphalt? But then nothing happened. And ultimately, it wouldn’t really matter if it had – the organic, human aspect always wins eventually. You wouldn’t think so – it’s a big, planned coherent thing, it looks like it should work! – but it never does.

It occurs to me that this is a judgement on the citizenry, carved into the landscape; these are cities that fundamentally don’t trust their own residents with the reins of the future. I really hope we can add that to the pile of the last century’s bad ideas and walk away from it.

July 10, 2009

The Last Giant Leap

Filed under: doom,fail,future,hate,losers,science,toys,travel,vendetta — mhoye @ 9:22 pm

Forward Motion

The Telegraph takes a survey, and finds out that life is a lot like XKCD:

“In a survey, which reveals “deeply worrying” levels of ignorance about the Apollo space programme, which sent three men to the moon forty years ago this month, 11 out of 1009 people surveyed thought Buzz Lightyear was the first person to step onto the moon. A further 8 people thought it was Louis Armstrong, with less than three-quarters correctly answering that it was Neil Armstrong.

But 75% seems pretty good to me, considering the entire Apollo program started in 1960 and ended before I suspect most of the respondents were born. I mean, throw in a few question about Vostok-1 or the Messerschmitt ME 262, and watch what happens to those numbers when your history lesson has to cross a few borders.

But it occurred to me to look something up when I read that, and I realized that the last manned moon landing was in 1975, a bare five months after I was born. I knew this somehow, viscerally, but…

The last one. The last one, possibly the last one ever. Forty years later, we sit in the bottom of our gravity well and peer out at the universe through one decent orbital telescope (and peering back down with hundreds, I might add) and sending up camcorders on wheels to report back in black and white.

This sort of thing makes me want to cry.

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”
– JFK, 1960.

And then, as a followup, nothing. Screw you, baby boomers. Your generation has been a blight on every facet of the landscape, and you owe me a rocketship future.

May 8, 2009


Filed under: awesome,life,parenting,travel — mhoye @ 7:59 pm




Filed under: awesome,life,parenting,travel — mhoye @ 10:43 am

One Good Look

We should be going home this afternoon. Maya views this idea with some suspicion.

Suspicious Baby Is Suspicious

April 27, 2009

Good, Open, Portable; Pick Any Two.

Filed under: digital,doom,future,interfaces,travel — mhoye @ 2:03 pm

Please Hold Something

I was crying into a beer the other day with a friend, lamenting the state of open software on portable devices, and I thought I’d make a list.

iPhone OS: Very good, very portable. Closed source, semi-closed ecosystem, hardware-locked. Can be hacked to some semblance of openness via jailbreaking, but this is a running battle.

Windows Mobile: Closed, not very good. Marginal ecosystem. Lots of apps out there for it now, because there wasn’t anything else you could develop for in that space until recently, but there’s not a lot of love out there for it now. In the future it’s supposed to be awesome, but in the future everything is supposed to be awesome. Right now, not so much. But there’s a large install base, and you don’t need to get your app approved by some arcane, opaque process to ship something that people can install and run.

PalmOS: See “Windows Mobile”, except without any prospect of a future. Possibly like Palm itself, if the Pre isn’t a monster success.

Palm’s WebOS: The Linux-based successor to PalmOS. Looks awesome, reportedly based on open standards (whatever that means), hasn’t shipped yet.

Blackberry OS: Closed, crappy. Does email less-badly than everything else in that space, is bad at everything else. They have an app store now, because everyone needs to have an app store, but what everyone really wants as far as I can tell is a much better mail client for the iPhone.

OpenMoko: Open, nominally portable but with power management so bad that it might as well not be. Also ugly, awkward, two years late and effectively over. They re-skinned the interface at least three times, but never managed to get power management or calling right; totally open, completely unusable, classic open source.

Maemo: Open source, open platform and actually pretty good. Ships on minitablets (but not telephones) that only Nokia makes and that Nokia doesn’t make anymore of, I am just now finding out. I’m not sure how many new Maemo devices Nokia actually ships now, but from the deep discounts I’m seeing on N810s, I believe the answer is “none”. Something might come out late this summer, and hopefully Nokia will have come to its senses regarding its crappy MicroB browser and gotten behind Fennec by then but in the meantime very much like WebOS: the mockups and demos are awesome, but the product isn’t actually shipping yet.

Android: Ostensibly open-source, but not in any way that actually matters; the OS is cryptographically locked down by the phone carriers providing it. You can’t actually change anything on the OS; or write code for it in anything but Google’s Java API. It’s nominally open-source, but with the basic problem of closed-source baked right into it – you can’t make the changes you want to something you presumably own.

S60: Becoming open, but slowly, so slowly. Runs on an awful lot of the phones in the world, though, so we’ll see how that shakes out, but its got the smell of PalmOS on it – does incredible work on the smaller, lighter-weight platforms that the world is steadily moving away from, coasting towards irrelevance by standing relatively still. But some of the better cellphones in the world still run it, and it looks like it might still have some legs, so it’s hard to tell what’s going to happen here.

The thing that really hurts me about this is that there’s no obvious correlation between open-source software and an actual open platform, much less an open ecosystem. Some open-source products ship on only closed-off devices, and some of the closed-source devices have the most open ecosystems around, if not a scrap of open code. Worse, some open-source devices are actually more closed-off than some of their closed-source competitors.

I would have thought those things would be related, but I guess not.

April 20, 2009

We Play Both Kinds Of Music Here

Filed under: life,lunacy,travel,weird — mhoye @ 1:04 pm


This is another story I’ve told a few people recently, so I’m going to tell it to you to get it out of my system. It came up in a conversation about Alberta, and I mentioned that people in cowboy boots and suits creep me out. So, of course, somebody asked me why.

This is why. It adds a certain flavour to this story a little bit if you know that there’s a strong resemblance between me and my dad.

When I was maybe fourteen, my family went on a trip to Mexico. It was a great trip (to my hazy memory) but on route we had a stopover at DFW, and got snowed in. So we stayed at the hotel at the airport to catch a flight the next morning; we checked in pretty late as I recall it, so dad and I went out to reconnoiter the place to see if there was any dinner around.

On our way back to one of the top floors, this slow elevator stops and in walk two skinny, oily Texans, shiny suits, cowboy boots, big belt buckles and bolo ties, the works. Greasy moustaches and slicked back hair, it was all there. And between them, one absolutely stacked brunette, shrinkwrapped in a black dress that didn’t leave much of what little it covered to the imagination. The doors close, and up we go.

Now, I’m fourteen, so I probably looked at this woman a little longer than I needed to. But the way a lot of fourteen year olds do, I figure I can deal with the world, right? But it still caught me more than a little off guard when one of the Texans looks at my dad and I, nods his head over at the brunette and drawls, “you wanna get in on this?”

There is no way they could not have known that I was standing next to my dad. None. I don’t believe I have ever been more skeeved out in my life. The other Texan looked over, like he was genuinely curious about our decision. The brunette looked as bored as if the guy had just ordered a pizza, and here I am, paralyzed with skeeve.

But my dad, he’s not always the calmest guy around, but somehow right then he’s as cool as the weather outside; he just looks the guy in the eye and shakes his head.

“Alright”, says the Texan. And the elevator stops at their floor, and off they go. My 14-year-old brain, of course, was still trying to digest what had just happened. “Wait, what? You… aaagh! Eew!” And ever since then, man, I’ve found suits plus cowboy boots creepy as hell. The last time I had a flight lay over in Calgary was brutal. Every time I see that outfit, that’s what I think of. You wanna get in on this?

July 20, 2008

You Can’t Have Too Much Buddha

Filed under: awesome,beauty,flickr,travel — mhoye @ 10:13 pm

I’ve filtered out a few more of my very-late-now Hong Kong photos, and dumped a set from my trip to Lantau Island on Flickr.

The trip to Lantau was great, starting with another reminder of how backwards Toronto’s public transit system is; the trip was fast, fast and simple, all public transit and a cable car ride, in clean, air-conditioned comfort.

Did you know that subways don’t necessarily have to be filthy, decaying cold-war relics that can’t slow to a stop without screaming like a gut-shot banshee? That public transit doesn’t have to smell like a wet dog? It doesn’t need to be like that, and it’s amazing what a difference it makes. This town needs an Octopus Card in the worst way.

The Wire

Big Buddha at Lantau is a cable car ride away from one end of the Hong Kong subway system, and while I claim no broad experience in the field it’s definitely the longest cable car ride I’ve ever been on, about half an hour, and the views are spectacular and occasionally a little bit terrifying. I hope you’re OK with wide-open spaces and heights, if you’re going to take this ride, because you’re going to get those two things in spades.


More Airport

It’s probably the best view of the immense Hong Kong International Airport that your casual tourist is likely to get, and gives you a sense of the immense scope of that project when you realize that’s all reclaimed land. Then the ride goes over a long series of hills and valleys, every one making you think that OK, that’s enough, this must be the last one before you cross the ridge and see the cars trailing away over the next hill again.

The Long Road

There’s a path that runs the length of the ride. You can follow it winding away beneath you, and if I ever go back to Lantau, I’m going to do that hike on foot.

Buddha And Sky

The approach to the Buddha his own bad self is impressive, and only gets more impressive the closer you get to it. He’s on his own little summit, surrounded by some very nicely-crafted statues of supplicants bringing various gifts, and when you’ve climbed the up to see him, he only gets more impressive. Oddly, the gates they have to keep the tourists in the right lineups all have swastikas on them; it was a traditional Buddhist symbol long before the Nazis got hold of it, of course, but still a little jarring to those of us raised on a steady diet of Allied-propaganda history classes.

A Floral Offering

The Gate


Apparently that’s two hundred and fifty tons of Buddha right there.

The rest of the town around it is a little touristy. There’s a both a Shaolin monastery and a Starbucks within two hundred meters of it, which I’m sure is indicative of something or symbolic of something else, but that mostly just makes me a little sad. And there were no swastika-barriers in front of either of them, which also made me a little sad, but at least the mental image of Ninja Monk Nazis lining up to get their caffeine fix at Der Staarbuckener was amusing.

But it occurred to me that, way back before the tourists, the cable car ride and the Big Buddha, this must have been a beautiful, secluded place. Take away all that convenience and this is the absolute middle of nowhere, an isolated outpost hidden in the mountains on the uninhabited part of the island, a significant ordeal to even get to, much less actually live there.

But I suppose that modulo “all that convenience”, a lot of the world is like that.

Talk To The Hand

July 9, 2008

Libid Zyla 2: Zyla Harder

Filed under: awesome,beauty,flickr,life,travel — mhoye @ 9:34 pm

I know I still owe you some Hong Kong photos, internets, but I’ve just finished triaging the photos from Libid and Randy’s wedding.


The rest of the photoset is here, not all of the bride and groom. I spent a lot of time photographing the guests, and some of them came out pretty well.

Let Me Out

That’s not strictly a Wedding Photo, but it’s still a hell of a photo, you know? But I promise, there are more at the other end of the link.

Creepy Hydrant Wants To Love You

Filed under: beauty,flickr,travel,weird — mhoye @ 12:34 pm

Creepy Hydrant Wants To Love You

Taken in Winnipeg.

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