Ok, first, I'd like to wish those of you who celebrate a lovely Easter.

Now, the rest of this post is for fairnymph and everybody else who cares about my (physical, in this case) health. I ran today - for the first time in literally decades - probably the last time I did so I was in prep school. Oh, back maybe 5 years ago I was something of a gym rat and I regularly bicycled and used an elliptical machine but I never ran. Ok, so maybe it was more of a jog and my gait was definitely a little uneven, but it was continuous for probably a couple miles. I covered all of the paths in North Point Park at least once, most of them twice, then over the bridge by the museum of science, through that little park opposite the river from North Point Park, around the North Station area, down Lomasney Way and Causeway Street to the Zakim Bridge overlook, then attempted to continue across the New Charles River Dam, which turned out to be closed to pedestrian traffic (because of lock activity related to all the recent rain?), so then over the Washington Street (Charlestown) Bridge, around Paul Revere Park, then down New Rutherford Ave, over the Gilmore Bridge, and eventually home[1]. No cramps (a little incipient stitch at one point when I stopped momentarily for an intersection but nothing came of it), no exercise-induced asthma, no angina. Eventually got a nice exercise high. I feel good now.

I intend to try to make a habit of this. One time does not a habit make, nor even ten - but it's certainly impossible to make a habit without making a start.

Hellooooooo gastrocnemius muscles, I feeeeeeeeel you!

[1] via the Dunkin Donuts at the corner of O'Brien Highway and 3rd for two chocolate glazed donuts and a small iced coffee with two sugars and skim milk
  • Current Mood
    accomplished accomplished
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Speaking of pear-shaped...

My flight from Shanghai to Newark is apparently going to be about 2 hours late. It is nearly certain (according to the airline) that I will miss my flight from Newark to Boston and there is only a small chance that I will be able to be accommodated on the only other flight of the evening from Newark to Boston (which is officially full). The odds are pretty good that I will wind up spending the night in Newark - hopefully in a hotel room and not at the airport terminal.

ETA: Through some very good last-minute luck that got me onto an otherwise sold-out flight, I am now home. It only took 24 hours door-to-door. I think it's now time to relax.
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    grumpy grumpy

Shanghai, work, tourism, and food

My work here in Shanghai has gone a bit pear-shaped and so I'm going home early - today, Sunday. Yesterday I did not have to work and got to play tourist in the city with two of my coworkers. Here are some highlights:

- We visited the Shanghai City God Temple district including the temple itself. I may write more about that later. As a Westerner and not a religious scholar or religious person, I was struck by what seemed to be a comfortable cheek-by-jowl relationship between religion and commerce that you don't really see in the US and also the great extent to which the practice of spirituality at the temple seemed to be a very "DIY" affair.

- Yesterday's lunch was at Din Tai Fung, a restaurant whose original location is in Taiwan. They specialize in noodles and soup dumplings (xiaolongbao). I had both various dumplings and beef noodle soup with brisket and both were exceptional. The dumplings were better than those I have had elsewhere including elsewhere in Shanghai. Din Tai Fung has a location in Los Angeles (but nowhere else in the US) and I wonder whether the food there is equally good.

- Friday night's dinner was at Sweet Dynasty, a place that apparently is most known for Chinese desserts, although I didn't have any dessert. What I did have was lots of traditional Chinese food (I let my coworkers, who are of Chinese ancestry and fluent in Chinese, do all the food selection and ordering), some of which I couldn't identify (but ate happily anyways). That which I believe I identified successfully included pig feet, chicken feet, and tripe.

- Last night's dinner was at Ma Boon Krong, a Thai restaurant. The food was delicious and very subtle and had none of the cloyingly sweet and heavily sauced character that is almost omnipresent in Thai food in the US. Asian food really is better in Asia, by a considerable margin.

Well, that's it for now. I should be back home in Cambridge by 11pm local time on Sunday... that's... about 26 hours from now. I leave the hotel at 12:15pm local time... so that's going to be probably around 22 hours in transit and around 16 in the air. Yay.

On the road again

I write this morning from gate 7 of Terminal A at Boston Logan International Airport. I'm on my way to Shanghai for nearly two weeks of sun and fun and beach volleyball and snorkel...oh wait, yeah, no. Nearly two weeks of helping our contract manufacturer start manufacturing a new product. I plan to provide running commentary on this trip mostly via twitter, so follow me over there (bentober) if you care. Here's my travel itinerary:

CO9 departs BOS 22 March 07:30 arrives EWR 08:54
CO87 departs EWR 22 March 11:10 arrives PVG 13:55 on 23 March. The time in China (yes, all of China, they've got one timezone) is 12 hours ahead of the time in Boston... so total scheduled flight time is 14 hours and 45 minutes. Equipment will be a Boeing 777-200ER and I'm in seat 32K (exit row, yay).


Yep, it's gratuitous usericon post time. This one is from my recent (well, late December) trip to Australia. Yes, that's a bird on my head. Here's the pic it came from:

What Google owes you (or why the services you don't pay for may actually be rather expensive)

Amid the ongoing kerfuffle over Google Buzz, I've been contemplating what, if anything, Google[1] owes you. Specifically, I'd like to confront the following questions:
- Are they legally bound by their stated privacy policy?
- Do they owe you any particular standard of care with respect to their services being operated in a non-negligent manner?
- Do they have some obligation to avoid doing things that would offend a "reasonable person"?
- Do they owe you some kind of continuity of service? What is their liability if they lose your email? What if one day they decided to simply shutter gmail? Would they owe you advance notification and the opportunity to archive your mailbox?

I've been thinking a lot about these questions and I think the answer to all of them not only is but also ought to be, pretty much, "no." Let's consider the privacy policy, the one thing among these that I think a very large fraction of people believe ought to be sacred. Almost all of the arguments I've seen in favor of the enforceability of privacy policies makes an appeal to contract law. Well, it is generally held that there are three components to an enforceable contract - an offer, consideration, and acceptance - or, in other words, pretty much, to have a contract, two parties have to agree that one party is going to do something and the other party is going to somehow compensate the first party for doing it. This is immediately tricky with respect to free services because it is difficult to argue that there is any consideration[2]. So, in the absence of any laws explicitly requiring online service providers to honor their own privacy policies, it seems to me that there is probably very little recourse if the provider of a free service violates its privacy policy[3].

Perhaps, I suppose, it is fair to make an argument such as "Google has become highly successful, in some sense, on the backs of its users, and because of that great success, it owes us all some basic privileges." Maybe so... some aspects of anti-trust law operate on essentially that basis - but the whole notion makes me uncomfortable.

So... if you don't like this state of affairs, I think there are two possible ways to go. You could argue for increased regulation of free online services[4] or you could put your money where your mouth is, as it were, stop using free services (or at least stop using them in places that matter strongly to you), and instead use services that you pay for explicitly. This cements your contractual relationship with the service provider and makes it quite explicit who the customer is[5]. In the long run, in a real sense, it's probably cheaper. What do you think, dear readers?

[1] Yes, I know, Google offers some paid services as well but what I wish to address here is their wildly successful free services. Furthermore, this argument applies to other providers of free services.

[2] Well, it's possible to argue that they're providing a service for your use and in consideration you're permitting them to show you ads and gather and use information about you. Legal scholars have generally been reluctant to accept that sort of argument but maybe it needs re-evaluation in the internet age.

[3] I tend to think that Google's implementation and deployment of Buzz does not violate their own published privacy policy but rather that it is a surprising and, to some, alarming, demonstration of how inherently inadequate privacy policies are (leaving entirely aside the issue of enforceability).

[4] I think this sort of thing has real potential to damage the sort of innovation that makes the internet awesome.

[5] Providers of free services have multiple masters. In some sense, the service users are the customers but in some other sense the real customers are the advertisers and others who utilize the vast caches of demographic information that these services generate.
  • Current Music
    Bryan Ferry, "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall"

(no subject)

Cisco has a new TV ad campaign. In one of the spots, a woman returns to the municipal building of a small town that was probably her childhood home and is shown the police operations center. On a video monitor, she sees a meter maid writing a parking ticket for her car and runs off, presumably to see if she can avoid the ticket, and there the ad ends. It's supposed to be funny... and it sort of is, but, to me, it clearly says:

"Cisco: Purveyor of everything you need to enable the modern police state."

Yeah, lovely.
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    grumpy do not want