The old blog is still here
Tired of all the BS from Google and Blogger, we’re just changing over to Wordpress (as discussed in my last post of 2009). (The good news is that the theory worked about installing Wordpress in to the existing directory.)
For the old blog, click here. We’ll have everything integrated very early in 2010 and I’ll kick the year off with a “best of” series, just to get this home page looking a bit more populated.
Labels: blogging, Google, technology, WordpressPosted by Jack Yan, 10:35
My last post for this blog on Blogger (ﬁngers crossed)
Folks, this is the last post of 2009, and I might see you here in 2010.
When I asked if there was an easy way to shift from Blogger to Wordpress at the same domain, no one had any clues, apart from our usual go-to web guy, Nigel Dunn.
Nigel’s thought was I could create a new domain: instead of blog, maybe I could use wordpress. I could use the Wordpress import, get the old posts into the new directory, and then rename the Wordpress directory. Simple.
I dug around a little bit today and I might be in luck: I do not need to do any of this.
Because I never hosted any of these entries on a Google or Blogspot server—which means that Google can’t go around wiping anything and pretending that the blog never existed in the ﬁrst place—Blogger actually published every one of these pages in full on our server.
No databasing, no PHPing, nothing—they exist as fully ﬂedged pages, with the entire CSS stylesheet, the meta tags, everything, on each page. Even the month pages are not database ones: they replicate every single post, in full. Blogger’s only record is keeping an index of my posts and maintaining some drafts.
Needless to say, this is a terribly inefﬁcient way of storing data, although it is remarkably safe—I am not subject to the whim of a database crash because the posts are all here in “longhand”.
There are some problems with Blogger. It won’t allow us oldies to have the simplest things, such as a ‘Previous page’ and ‘Next page’ link. New users can get these, but if you have a custom template—as I do—and started in the early days, then Blogger won’t supply you with some easy code that you can plug in to your blog.
Also, as mentioned, it republishes every single tag page when one enters a new post—even when that particular tag has not been used. This is also terribly inefﬁcient and, as I discovered when poking about on our server, unnecessary.
All told, the shift to Wordpress is on principle. Google has proven itself to be highly untrustworthy and has engaged in deception when it came to deleting Vincent Wright’s Social Media Consortium blog. I had also discussed this shift many years ago with readers, all of whom encouraged me to make the change.
If all goes well, I will start 2010 with a new blog at this same location. The home page will look rather empty initially, because I will be starting fresh. However, the entire archive of posts from 2006 to 2009 will remain, hard-linked from the new home page, to pages that Google has published in full.
I will keep the old Blogger account in case I need to make template changes, which are very likely. But no new posts will go via Google or be managed by the company. See you in the Gregorian New Year.
Labels: Blogger, blogging, WordpressPosted by Jack Yan, 08:52
History of the decade, part 11: man and woman of the decade
Man of the decade
Nicolas Sarkozy, for glamourizing the presidency more than Ségolène Royal could.
Carson Kressley, for his contribution to the styles of world leaders.
Al Gore, for trying to look stylish, but still falling short of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Vladimir Putin, for posing topless.
Tiger Woods, for having a name like a porn star and acting it out.
Peter Jackson, for helping millions of people ﬁnd New Zealand on a map when the rest of us could not, and for making it OK to be a successful man with a beard.
Sarah Palin, for creating Tina Fey.
Elin Nordegren, for being the hottest woman associated with golf since Caddyshack.
Jenna Bush, for calling her Dad at work live on the Ellen show.
Angela Merkel, for getting a back rub from George W. Bush.
Martha Stewart, for comparing herself to Nelson Mandela.
Oprah Winfrey, for actually meeting Nelson Mandela.
There you have it, folks! Happy 2010!
If you want to read the whole series, this link should deliver the whole lot. Or, jump back to part 1 here.Posted by Jack Yan, 03:32
Why Peter Jackson deserves a knighthood
[Cross-posted at Lucire] When Lucire ﬁrst broke news yesterday about Peter Jackson’s knighthood in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours’ List, I was particularly delighted.
Peter Jackson deserves a knighthood not just because he makes marvellous ﬁlms. Peter Jackson deserves a knighthood because he continues to believe in New Zealand even after certain bodies and their bureaucrats gave him grief.
Before he was a big name internationally, there was reported tension between Jackson and the New Zealand Film Commission in the 1990s.
Because Jackson believed in this country so much, he got over it. A lesser man would have thought, ‘If the establishment won’t accept me, I’ll leave.’
Many of the big Kiwi names in movies are based in California, because when they left there was no centre for movie production in New Zealand. And they wanted somewhere that could understand their vision for making movies.
Instead, Jackson fought to make his Lord of the Rings trilogy in New Zealand—setting up a world-class hub for ﬁlm in Wellington.
While some politicians would like to give credit to the Tourism New Zealand 100 Per Cent Pure campaign for lifting the national image, I’ve always argued it was the effort of one man—Jackson—for bringing the country to the world stage.
Destination branding can be ignored, passed over as just another tourism ad in a travel magazine. Peter Jackson alone gave it that hook, and if any one man can take credit for the ﬁrst decade’s economic boosts, it is him.
Through Jackson not only did the ﬁlms become nice earners for New Zealand, the tourist industry boomed because of the trilogy. And the Film Commission came right in the end.
And in many respects, Peter Jackson kicked the tall poppy syndrome idea out of the country’s psyche where it could only be entertained by a few foreign companies who use it to keep Kiwis down. Peter Jackson changed our culture.
This knighthood is long overdue, but I applaud this honour for Jackson. He is a patriot, a word that should not have politically incorrect shades. His level of pride is just what New Zealand needs. Sir Peter Jackson is an inspirational ﬁgure and one hopes many others will have faith in their own beliefs, in the way that he does.
Labels: film, honour, New Zealand, politics, tall poppy syndromePosted by Jack Yan, 23:25
History of the decade, part 10: 2009
Michael Jackson dies, ﬁnally causing the internet to break down. When Mollie Sugden dies, Mrs Slocombe’s Pussy, in a ﬁt of rage, causes Twitter to break down.
Sarah Palin starts her Facebook page, and gets more followers than Oprah Winfrey, forcing Oprah to end her show after 25 years as she is convinced this was one of the signs of the Apocalypse.
With his wife Hillary as Secretary of State and busy on other matters, Bill Clinton wants to prove he still has his charm. He goes to the one last place where he does not have
Roman Polanski, who prefers far younger women than Clinton did, is arrested in Switzerland, but some French politicians lobby to have him released, based on the premise that as long as the ages added up to 60, it’s no big deal. Eventually, Polanski rejoins his wife, who is younger than his 1977 victim, in Switzerland, under house arrest.
China becomes the world’s largest car market after the Oscar gaffe in 2007, showing the Japanese once and for all who is boss (‘Don’t mention the war’).
President Obama misunderstands his advisers’ remarks to ‘bow to the electorate’, and begins bowing to the unelected when he sees King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and His Imperial Majesty Emperor Akihito.
Tiger Woods is reminded by his wife of the strict rules of golf: if you play the wrong hole, there is a penalty. In an effort to make up the lost sponsorship after his gaffes, he releases a Christmas single, ‘I’m Dreaming of a White Mistress’.
Tomorrow: Man and Woman of the Decade
Labels: 2000s, history, humourPosted by Jack Yan, 06:43
The newer the program, the buggier it gets: a reminder of departed software
One reason I love working with the NZCS as a client is that they promote professionalism when it comes to ICT.
That brought my mind to software in general, especially if I am to shift this blog to Wordpress.
If you follow my Tweets, you’ll know that I suffer a daily Firefox crash ever since I upgraded to 3.5. The earlier 3.0 was ﬁne, and it still runs successfully on my Asus laptop, running Vista.
Today I took the PageMaker 7 trial off my desktop machine after discovering many ﬁles crashed on opening. The old 6.5.2 works ﬁne. We still have a few stationery templates on it, not to mention my résumé—important in those expert-witness cases.
It’s not the only program to be more buggy with a newer edition. Others that come to mind include:
It makes you wonder if these chaps ever tested their software in real-world conditions, or took note of the feedback offered. I’m wondering if another country can do it better.
Labels: bugs, computing, softwarePosted by Jack Yan, 12:00
Any how-tos on shifting to Wordpress?
Before you answer that, I know there are heaps on going from Blogspot to Wordpress or to a self-hosted domain.
I wouldn’t mind ﬁnding one which allows me to go from a self-hosted blog run on Blogger (this one, residing at jackyan.com/blog) to a self-hosted blog run on Wordpress that has to reside at the same URL.
Does, for example, installing the Wordpress blog to jackyan.com/blog tamper with what exists here now?
Will I expect to have down time?
You see, I’m sick of Google. I believe, that if things were to go awry, no one will help. No one helped when Google deleted the blog home page at Beyond Branding for three years. And, as you’ve read, Google has engaged in obstruction and censorship in our latest battle, learning a few tricks from Red China.
Technically, since I started using the labels here at Blogger, which I assume to be tags, the publication time is immensely long. It seems Blogger has to republish every single label page, regardless of whether that label was used in the most recent post or not. That sounds like a recipe for disaster—and I’ve had more than my share of long-loading tags.
There are now over 1,100 posts here, and while Wordpress certainly is buggy, at least Wordpress geeks, judging by their forums, tend to be far more intelligent than Blogger ones.
Labels: bloggingPosted by Jack Yan, 09:54
History of the decade, part 9: 2008
President Sarkozy fulﬁls his hot-women election promise by marrying Carla Bruni.
César winner Mathieu Amalric plays President Sarkozy in a ﬁlm loosely based on his life, Quantum of Solace. In the ﬁlm, Amalric plays a speech-making Frenchman with a hot girlfriend and plans for world domination, and ticks off the British Government.
With his Powerpoint market secure after the Bush administration’s botch-up, and with so much money from Warren Buffett, Bill Gates decides that there is no more need to work at Microsoft.
Unable to locate the Queer Eye guys after the show’s cancellation, Radovan Karadžić is arrested in Beograd.
Tired of the unchanging fashions of the Bush administration, Americans head to the polls. The Republicans, realizing that the Democrats lost because they concentrated too much on khaki tones with Al Gore and on hair with John Kerry, select a boringly dressed bald guy, John McCain, as their presidential nominee. The plan backﬁres when the Democrats, thinking third time lucky, believe Barack Obama is the snazziest dresser and choose him.
Realizing that McCain is not fashionable enough, and seeing how women were sweeping into power the year before, the GOP introduces Sarah Palin as its vice-presidential nominee on the strength of her candidacy in a 1980s’ Miss Alaska pageant. It was too late. Americans had already decided they preferred Obama’s style, more so when George Clooney himself said he liked the cut of his suits.
Tina Fey is hired by Sarah Palin to be her double and to do the talk show circuit in advance of her book, Going Rogue, being published. Palin becomes wildly popular, while Fey is criticized by the mainstream media for being less funny than 30 Rock.
O. J. Simpson goes to jail for 15 years, after a Nevada jury evaluates his earlier performances in the Naked Gun movies. Disgusted, they set out to make an example of him.
Labels: 2000s, France, history, humour, politics, USAPosted by Jack Yan, 06:43
Research isn’t that important if you write in an encyclopædia these days
Here’s a very good example for why I don’t think Wikipedia can be trusted. Below is a screen shot of a page at Wikimedia Commons, which I assume is where you can submit pictures for Wikipedia. I applaud those who give up their copyright on images (and have done so myself from time to time), but it might help if they were in the right place.
Here are some pictures on a page about the Hyundai Sonata Y1:
Problem: not a single one of these cars is the Hyundai Sonata Y1. (Here’s what it actually looks like.)
On the Y2 page, two out of twelve people got it right, which is roughly how the population works, anyway: for every two smart people, there are ten thickos.
Granted, Hyundai itself has not helped things by calling the third-generation model, even in Korea, the Sonata II, which I suspect is how this error propagated. That, and people wanting to contribute to an encyclopædia but who refuse to do any research. It’s a dangerous mix.
Just because a bunch of people believe in erring doesn’t make it true. Which summarizes my attitude toward Wikipedia. And Rogernomics.
Incidentally, I recognize there are some positive aspects to Wikipedia’s existence—these were covered in the comments to the earlier post. I agree it is a landmark in the growth of the internet. Maybe one of the commenters is right about the science articles having fewer disputes (or, it shows the relatively good training of scientists and their willingness to settle things in a civilized fashion, rather than any merit on Wikipedia’s part).
And without MediaWiki, there would be no Autocade. (In fact, if Wikipedia were accurate, I would never have started Autocade. It’s partly because of errors like the above that I did.)
However, it remains the only volunteer site to my memory where a senior admin has gone out of her way to send me email abuse privately (while exposing that you don’t need to be particularly smart to be an admin there). After the Wikipedia defenders came to the site’s rescue in June, along comes one of their own to undo their diplomacy—and then some.
Labels: Autocade, cars, internet, WikipediaPosted by Jack Yan, 05:11
We are running out of time
I posted this on my Tumblog earlier today but it is worth repeating here:
I captioned it, ‘We probably will keep thinking this is someone else’s problem till we encounter threats like the Maldives and other places do: if we don’t do something, our country will disappear. But this graphic is a heck of a good reminder.’
The pic says it all, really.
Labels: environmentPosted by Jack Yan, 01:16
Unlike Jimmy Carter, some of those peanut growers are mean
Found in David Vinjamuri’s Accidental Branding (one of several books I have still to go through), talking about the founding of the Clif Bar:
Gary loved the package, but he was reluctant to name the bar after himself … As they were ﬁnalizing packaging a couple of months later, they ran a trademark search, only to learn that the name might infringe on a product called Gary’s All Natural Peanuts. Erickson wrote a letter to the company, who promptly threatened to sue them.
What the heck?
The incident is in another book, Raising the Bar, which founder Gary Erickson himself wrote:
We did a trademark search and found a product called Gary’s All Natural Peanuts. We thought, “Well, it’s not exactly a bar. Let’s write them a letter and tell them what we are doing.” In no time ﬂat we received a letter from the large multinational company that made the product telling us that they would come after us with all their attorneys and sue us for so much money that we would regret ever thinking of Gary Bar.
I’d love to tell you who the multinational is, but a USPTO search does not reveal this trade mark. There is, however, one for plain old Gary’s for a company called Gary’s Peanuts, Inc., but I dare not presume it’s the same one. (It’s owned by Severn Peanut Co., Inc., a subsidiary of Meherrin Agricultural & Chemical Co., Inc., which owns Hampton Farms. Not sure if these guys are a ‘multinational’ as they look pretty local to me.)
Whomever responded to Gary Erickson, this is abysmal business behaviour, Peanut people. Here’s a new company trying to do the right thing and probably wrote a very polite letter. Your ﬁrst response, if the above is correct, is to resort to lawyers.
Where I come from, formal proceedings are a last resort. Most people are able to work out their differences professionally and show some responsibility for their positions ﬁrst. But if you want to enrich the legal profession and look like dicks when the story is retold, be my guest.
It still amazes me how gutless some people are. And we wonder why the US is in the ﬁnancial poo. Could it be because money is going to the wrong department for things that most normal people can sort out with a letter or two?
PS.: Below is a response from Tom Nolan of Hampton Farms, conﬁrming it was not his company who threatened Gary Erickson, and that they are not a multinational—so it more than gets them off the hook. It makes me wonder, now, just who Erickson wrote to, as the Gary’s All Natural Peanuts trade mark does not come up in a search.
Labels: business, intellectual property, law, USAPosted by Jack Yan, 00:04
Here’s some more evidence for you to delete, Google
Remember this? Well, you would if you’ve followed this blog, and I go on and on about it.
As the last entry on the page, and seeing as Nitecruzr pasted the incorrect code from the Yahoo! cache frameset, I decided I would furnish the correct code from the actual frame from Yahoo!. That way, we would all have the evidence we needed, and demonstrate that there was, indeed, a cache of a page from Vincent Wright’s Social Media Consortium blog. (A copy of the original cached page that Nitecruzr claimed to be unable to see, but everyone else could, is temporarily at http://jyanet.com/temp/cache.htm; a screen shot of this page at its original location is here.)
Good ol’ full disclosure and transparency, right? And, as a senior Google forum person was allowed to paste HTML code into the forum, it should be all right if I followed suit.
Well, not really. That entry’s now been unilaterally deleted. Bit like Vincent’s entire four-year-old blog.
A friend of mine, known to some of you, mentioned to me that he had read the dealings on the support forum. He could clearly see the cache (as could everyone Vincent and I asked) and thought the obstructiveness was ‘insane’. So it’s not just me.
Google, I’m not sure what your problem is with honesty, transparency and information.
But we’re going to keep pursuing this.
Those holding Gmail accounts, be alert.
Labels: bugs, customer service, Google, technologyPosted by Jack Yan, 07:41
History of the decade, part 8: 2007
Therefore, more women were put into power after the well dressed men could not be trusted, with Nancy Pelosi becoming the ﬁrst female US speaker, Drew Gilpin Faust becoming Harvard’s ﬁrst female president, and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner becoming Argentina’s ﬁrst female president.
Nicolas Sarkozy becomes French president, promising that France would have someone in the Élysée hotter than Ségolène Royal, his opponent. Spurred by his victory, he begins checking out hot women. Frenchmen rejoice at Sarkozy’s respect of traditional French values and the sport of les reluquants.
Tony Blair says he has done all he can without dying his hair, and Gordon Brown takes over.
Karl Rove resigns his position in the Bush White House and considers starting his own TV show, Rove, only to ﬁnd that the name had been taken by a short Australian gentleman. He is hired instead by a slightly taller Australian gentleman, Rupert Murdoch.
After discovering that his attempts to sing Elvis Presley tunes in Memphis were lamer than the everyday karaoke bars’ ones, Shinzo Abe is replaced by Yasuo Fukuda as Japanese prime minister.
Rick Astley becomes an internet millionaire after his video for the song ‘Never Gonna Give You up’ becomes popular online. After collecting millions in royalties, he promptly invests them with Bernie Madoff.
The Nobel Peace Prize, which Hollywood-watchers now observe to see who might be deserving of a future Oscar, goes to Al Gore.
For now, Martin Scorsese wins the Oscar after remaking a Hong Kong Chinese ﬁlm, but all Chinese are upset when the American presenter calls it ‘Japanese’. (It is worse than the 2001 incident when Russell Crowe was called ‘Australian’, which offended both Kiwis and Aussies.) The usual jibes about WWII ensue, which pushes the Chinese to beat the Japanese and, in one of the last points of contention, have the largest car market in the world.
As part of its strategy, the Chinese dress up a Mandarin-speaking diplomat as a white man and have him elected as American president, so he can arrange to have more Buicks sent to Shanghai. He is asked to meet a man with the same initials—Karl Rove—to get advice, but accidentally winds up on an Australian TV show. His popularity with Chinese Australians, his use of Mandarin, and his proﬁciency with karaoke get Kevin Rudd elected as Australian prime minister.
Labels: 2000s, history, humourPosted by Jack Yan, 06:48
When Chrysler had world-beaters
Remember when Chrysler made cars that people (even the industry) salivated over? It wasn’t that long ago.
The original, base LH cars went up on Autocade today. It’s a real pity these were not widely exported: Chrysler could have cleaned up Down Under if there were right-hand-drive versions, especially as the Holden Commodore was beginning to march up the sales’ charts during these model years. (We also put up all the Triumph Spitﬁres.)
Chrysler Concorde (LH). 1993–7 (prod. unknown). 4-door sedan. F/F, 3301 cm³ (V6 OHV), 3518 cm³ (V6 OHC). Chrysler’s version of the LH large cars, similar to Eagle Vision and Dodge Intrepid of these years. More upscale than either Dodge or Eagle, but below LHS. Huge interior room thanks to the cab-forward design. Interior trim still a bit tacky, despite upmarket pretensions.
Dodge Intrepid (LH). 1993–7 (prod. unknown). 4-door sedan. F/F, 3301 cm³ (V6 OHV), 3518 cm³ (V6 OHC). Dodge version of Chrysler’s LH (rumoured it meant Last Hope) cars, with chassis elements derived from Renault Premier. Very good handling, even by European standards. Cab-forward look meant greater space, with three sitting across back comfortably. Well built range. ES had stiffer suspension.
Eagle Vision (LH). 1993–7 (prod. 105,000 approx.). 4-door sedan. F/F, 3301 cm³ (V6 OHV), 3518 cm³ (V6 OHC). Handsome cab-forward sedan, twinned with Chrysler Concorde (1993–7) and Dodge Intrepid (1993–7). Eagle was considered the most European of the three, and meant to fight the imports. Still modern looking and striking many years on, with excellent use of space thanks to the cabin extending far forward. Excellent handling and grip, but some plasticky interior trim not particularly appealing. Exported to Europe as Chrysler Vision. Last Eagle, as Chrysler retired the marque in 1998, and its successor was badged as the Chrysler 300M.
Labels: 1990s, Autocade, cars, ChryslerPosted by Jack Yan, 10:06
History of the decade, part 7: 2006
Warren Buffett decides he is sick of money and decides to give it to the poor. His PA misunderstands and thinks that the money has to go to the ‘poorly dressed’. It winds up with Bill Gates.
Political incorrectness returns in the form of Gene Hunt, played by Philip Glenister, in Life on Mars. His use of insults against homosexuals becomes popular among homophobes who do not watch Queer Eye, though both straight and gay men ﬁnd his camel hair coat appealing. Glenister unwittingly starts a new fashion trend and British men in 2006 look suspiciously like those in 1973. An American remake of the show later ﬂops when Harvey Keitel fails to don the same coat.
With Glenister’s rise, overweight, over-the-hill, nicotine-stained, borderline-alcoholic homophobes with a superiority complex and an unhealthy obsession with male bonding become sex symbols to British women. In other words, nothing changed in the UK.
Labels: 2000s, history, humour, TVPosted by Jack Yan, 05:29
History of the decade, part 6: 2005
Tony Blair is re-elected as British Prime Minister, after the Tories fail to ﬁeld a candidate with a better smile. Michael Howard, who could only manage a scowl at best,
Iranians, wanting greater harmony with the west, elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, because he wore western-style suits and often went tieless, after advice from Carson Kressley. Fooling the electorate proves to be the undoing of the Bravo TV show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, which began dipping in the ratings soon after.
Seeing all the hassles surrounding Queer Eye around the planet, Germans decide they would elect a female Chancellor in Angela Merkel.
Geena Davis becomes US president, but only on TV and certain parts of California not under the control of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Her reality TV show, created by the Democratic Party in the hopes of having Hillary Clinton elected in 2008, backﬁres, and winds up inspiring a little-known former small-town mayor in Alaska.
Labels: 2000s, history, humourPosted by Jack Yan, 08:54
Another bad TV concept idea
With the 1980s in vogue as evidenced by Ashes to Ashes, how about a spin-off of Roger Hall’s Gliding on?
After their department is privatized, some of the staffers are forced to work as civil servants at the Department of Social Welfare. After one of their own is threatened, the Minister requests that they all be given code names, based on the NATO phonetic alphabet (Echo, Sierra, Victor, etc.).
To get the lowest common denominator, you’d hire a good-looking lass as Echo. An attractive female boss will get bloggers talking about MILFs. Make sure the majority of the actors have ethnic-sounding names to get more New Zealand on Air funding. Voilà, Dolehouse.Posted by Jack Yan, 08:49
In the Christmas panto tradition: oh, no, there isn’t! Oh, yes, there is!
As far as I can tell, this is how my experience of getting Vincent Wright’s wrongly deleted-by-Google Social Media Consortium blog restored has gone.
1. Follow the Google Captcha and expect Google to stick to the ‘two business days’ review for July to September. Nothing happens.
2. Blog gets deleted.
3. Complain on one thread. Nothing happens.
4. Complain on another thread. Follow the suggestions provided.
Finally, a dialogue begins. Very helpful Google forum person responds, with my answers in parentheses. This is a summary of the last 35 days. The more we talk, the more the available evidence disappears as search engines renew their caches.
1. You probably didn’t follow the suggestions. (Yes, I did.)
2. You didn’t do it at the right time. (Yes, I did.)
3. Wait two days. (Waited, nothing happened.)
4. Wait till this afternoon. (Waited, nothing happened.)
5. There’s no cache of it. (Yes, there is.)
6. You’re not the owner of the site. (Owner steps in and says I am allowed to follow this up for him.)
7. There’s no cache of it. (Yes, there is.)
8. I’ll ignore the main link you give and focus on a second one that is less useful. (Look at the ﬁrst one then.)
9. There’s no cache of it. (Yes, there is.)
10. There’s no cache of it. (Yes, there is.)
11. Your search term is not relevant to this. (But it shows you a cache of it.)
I don’t have it in for Nitecruzr. If you look at his Google help pages, he’s one of the most tireless and generous people on there. It’s just a shame that for whatever reason, we don’t click.
Then, when you look at some of the idiots he has to deal with, it’s not a huge surprise his experiences have been coloured.
If it were my own blog, I probably wouldn’t be as stubborn about it. I’d move on. But when it’s a mate’s, and you know that he and several others count on you, that spurs you on a bit more.
Google people: this isn’t about oneupmanship and deliberately being obtuse. This is about ﬁnding an outcome we are all happy with and reviewing the evidence which directly addresses your concerns.
Anyone willing to bet that there’ll be some new excuse for step 12?
Labels: customer service, Google, technologyPosted by Jack Yan, 22:11
Are Hewlett–Packard’s webcams racist?
Evidence (hat tip to Tari Akpodiete) that the Hewlett–Packard webcam’s face-tracking feature is racist, and does not like black people:
If there’s some whites-only thing going on, then it might not work with Chinese, either. That’s one big market these folks will be missing out on.
It’s an extra reason for sticking with my Asus, thank you. I have a facial recognition log-in, which is pretty cool. And I hear from a white friend that these Chinese-designed computers even work on minorities like her.
Labels: humour, racism, technologyPosted by Jack Yan, 11:00
History of the decade, part 5: 2004
John Kerry reports for duty, but gets hassled by Republicans for having too good a hairstyle and undergoing Botox treatments.
Enemy agents inside the Ukraine, seeing how obsessed electors are with looks, try to give west-friendly Viktor Yushchenko an extreme makeover, but in reverse, to harm his
John Kerry’s hairstyle fails to win the US presidential election. John Edwards’s hair helps little, although the Democrats put as much emphasis on that as they did Al Gore’s khaki tones in 2000. The US re-elects President Bush and Vice-president Cheney, despite both men having less hair, in an upset victory for the Republicans.
Donald Trump’s hair starts its own reality show, called The Apprentice. The object is to ﬁnd the best hair transplant donor. During the show’s history, no bald man has ever won.
The US concludes that it would have to stick with Microsoft Powerpoint after discovering there was, indeed, no new software inside Iraq.
Peter Jackson feels vindicated by his experimentation with weird puppets in Bad Taste (originally developed as Kermit’s Worst Nightmare) as he takes home a lot of Oscars for The Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King.
Labels: 2000s, history, humour, media, politics, TVPosted by Jack Yan, 10:28
History of the decade, part 4: 2003
Hu Jintao becomes the president of Communist China, giving rise to jokes in the White House about ‘Hu is the president of China?’ and other fun quips between Bush and Cheney.
SARS becomes a trendy illness, and even becomes available in canned form in Australia.
Photographed by Michael Spencer/
The US and UK go in to Iraq after being tipped off that there was new software there that was better than Microsoft Powerpoint. They believe they ﬁnd it in the ﬁrst few weeks, leading President Bush to declare ‘Mission accomplished.’ However, when the software is brought back to the US, it is found that it is only compatible with the Apple II.
President Qaddaﬁ of Libya admits that his country was to blame for the Lockerbie bombing and the two terrorists in Back to the Future. As a sign of good faith that he did not want Doc Brown’s plutonium back, he announces he will give up his weapons’ programme.
In a return goodwill gesture, Great Britain says it would end the series Crossroads, after killing off both Benny and Diane.
Arnold Schwarzenegger accepts an invitation to what he believed was the Sacramento première of Terminator III, only to ﬁnd himself trapped at the Governor’s mansion. Barred from returning to Hollywood, he decides to do the Governor’s job anyway, calling his Democratic opponents ‘girly men’. Ted Kennedy shows up, but is unable to get his nephew-in-law to stop quoting from his movies.
UN votes to stop Israel from erecting a border between itself and the Palestinian areas, after China says it was bad feng shui.
Saddam Hussein ﬁnds that his doubles have disappeared, and that his disguise as a Baghdad cab driver has failed him. This leads to US networks wondering whether Queer Eye for the Straight Guy should be revived as a concept, with Saddam Hussein as the ﬁrst aired subject. A lessy bushy makeover is done by Carson Kressley for Saddam’s trial, and the show becomes a hit.
Later today, as a Christmas special: 2004
Labels: 2000s, history, humour, politicsPosted by Jack Yan, 04:10
I wish all family, friends and whanau a merry Christmas. And god Jul, 聖誕快樂, joyeux Noël, kαλά Χριστούγεννα. And yes, the weather ﬁnally looks summery, thank goodness.
Take it easy out there and have a great one.
Labels: 2009Posted by Jack Yan, 00:15
History of the decade, part 3: 2002
Enron, the winner of climate change awards and a self-proclaimed leader in green energy, and often bragged about by consultancies such as McKinsey’s, ﬁnds that saying the
President Bush, after learning that the original ‘President George W.’ had an axe, decides he needed to create axes that people disliked as well, to balance the original legend and shine light on his own administration. This gave rise to his ‘axes of evil’ speech.
Bush’s tough talk inspires numerous imitators on television, as even daytime TV hardens up with Phil McGraw and his new show, Dr Phil. Contrasting the softly, softly approach of Oprah Winfrey, McGraw screams at guests in an effort to have them “scared straight”.
Hugo Chavez of Venezuela moved out of his house, then changed his mind and moved back.
The media reveal that John Major had an extramarital affair, for which he later receives a knighthood.
ImClone states that it dislikes Martha Stewart, kicking off a chain of events that would see her behind bars.
Although A Beautiful Mind wins the Best Picture Oscar, the Academy is careful not to give another Oscar to Russell Crowe. No one has been able to ﬁgure out where he is from, and the Bush administration become concerned about illegal aliens coming in to the US and taking American jobs. The borders are tightened up, and the Minutemen in Texas begin patrolling the southern border for other actors.
Tomorrow: 2003 and, as a Christmas special, 2004
Labels: 2000s, humour, politicsPosted by Jack Yan, 05:30
History of the decade, part 2: 2001
Osama bin Laden records an angry message directed at the US over the cancellation of Baywatch. Translators discover a hidden message, where bin Laden vows to record David Hasselhoff in a drunken state if given the chance.
George W. Bush abandons the Kyoto global warming treaty, largely because he could
Slobodan Milošević believes he is hired to be the new Perry Mason in a TV remake, set at the International Criminal Court, but begins going off the script when he said that the person playing the judge was not a good enough actor.
To get the UK’s collective mind off livestock diseases and 9-11, Tony Blair promises to help the Americans retaliate against the terrorists by hiring Britain’s most skilful mercenary, Simon Cowell. Cowell unleashes a devastating weapon called Pop Idol, disguised as a talent contest, where the rejects of the early weeks are hired by MI6 and recorded on compact discs. These are then air-dropped on to known Taliban hideouts using a ‘shock and awe’ policy, in the belief it would smoke out the terrorists.
Judging this to be a good idea, the Americans remake Pop Idol and hire Cowell to strategize the attacks. They also hire a man who uses the code word ‘Dog’ (in the same way Americans used ‘Charlie’ in Vietnam) and a drunk woman.
Deputy PM John Prescott starts beating up voters on the campaign trail in the UK. The public brawling, and the fact Prescott gets off scot-free, inspire Russell Crowe.
Crowe stars in Gladiator and wins an Oscar. Scholars are still puzzled by the outcome. New Zealanders are puzzled by the American media’s claim that Crowe is Australian. Australians are puzzled by the American media’s claim that Crowe can act.
Labels: 2000s, history, humourPosted by Jack Yan, 05:38
History of the decade, part 1: 2000
I have had a busy decade. I was best known in 2000 for designing typefaces and I start the new decade running for mayor. Somewhere in between I wrote and co-wrote some books and still publish a bunch of fashion magazines. But how has the world changed in the last 10 years?
My memory is a bit hazy after this time, but I think it goes something along the lines of the following.
Vladimir Putin became Russian president on the promise that, ‘If it’s not right, we’ll put it right. It is the Putin right that counts,’ which appealed to Russian appliance owners, who voted overwhelmingly for the judo black belt.
Vice-president Al Gore appears in an unaired pilot for Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and is advised to wear khaki tones if he is to win the presidential election. Democrats claim victory.
Meanwhile, George W. Bush decides to start forming a government regardless of whether he won or not, because his Daddy had won twelve years before, and he was just following his lead.
When Americans see the winter 2001 ranges at their department stores, to discover khaki was not in after all, Bush became president the following January. Queer Eye is shelved temporarily as a TV concept.
Saddam Hussein hires an extra double.
Labels: 2000s, history, humour, politicsPosted by Jack Yan, 05:29
Autocade release goes out
We sent out the Autocade press release today. Mico Santos was the ﬁrst to break the news.
With how I’m enjoying Tumblr, and how Lucire editor-at-large Summer Rayne Oakes and fashion ed Samantha Hannah enjoy their Flips, it seems there is, as Wired pointed out, a trend toward “good enough”. We used that as the hook for the release.
Autocade car database site takes Twitter’s “good enough” approach
New Zealand- and British-developed site focuses on providing 80-word summaries of car models made after 1970
Wellington, December 21 (JY&A Media) In an era when the Flip’s camera quality is sufﬁcient for most people, and when Tumblr and Tweeter serve as channels of communication, sometimes “good enough” is all that people need. Autocade, a new online car database at autocade.net, follows the same philosophy.
Instead of long-winded pieces that one might ﬁnd on Wikipedia or websites devoted to certain models, Autocade has one-paragraph summaries, along with basic technical information.
The website, editable by the public, boasted its 1,000th model entry today. It is the brainchild of Jack Yan, who has had a track history of being a pioneer.
Mr Yan was the ﬁrst digital typeface designer in New Zealand, one of the country’s ﬁrst web publishers, and the founder of Lucire, a fashion magazine which began online but has since spawned international print editions. The Media department of his company, Jack Yan & Associates, is behind Autocade.
He says that he was tired of seeing the errors in Wikipedia, where contributors often failed to double-check their sources, and aimed to build something better.
However, he believes that many users want quick information and do not have time to sift through long articles.
‘I haven’t seen a site like this yet, despite the web having been with us for 20 years,’ he says. ‘You either see really long articles, or very technical pages that only experts would get any value from. Others are market-speciﬁc and tied to automotive retail. I wanted a quick, accurate, international resource.’
Each entry has an average length of 800 bytes, or around 80 words.
He takes one lead from Wikipedia by making the database editable by the public, speciﬁcally registered users. The site is driven by MediaWiki, the same software behind Wikipedia.
‘Let’s make it open to edits, but let’s also monitor those changes so that Autocade remains accurate and true to its original spirit,’ says Mr Yan.
He says every entry on Autocade has been meticulously checked against published sources. He wants to see this continue, by allowing only registered users who are serious about maintaining the website’s global, accurate point of view.
Mr Yan claims Autocade is truly international, in the spirit of the original web.
‘If you visit the English Wikipedia, there is a natural bias toward English-speaking territories. It’s understandable: it has more contributions from natural English speakers. However, when it comes to dealing with cars sold outside the United States, in particular, it falls short in many cases,’ he says.
His aim with Autocade was to have a website that would not have the same biases, by giving the same emphasis to models regardless of their country of origin. He admits that there will naturally be some bias, but it is not as strongly felt.
He says the site’s focus has been on automobiles made in his lifetime (from the 1970s on), since he had more readily available published resources. But Autocade welcomes any models, provided the information is accurate.
The photographs have to be either publicity shots where copyright has been waived, or original work by the contributor.
While it has some popular models such as the original Volkswagen Golf and the entire lineage of Toyota Corollas, Mr Yan has seen ﬁt to add obscure cars such as the Luxgen M7 of Taiwan, the Kish Khodro Veek of Iran, the Pakistani Adam Revo, and the Korean, Holden-based Camina.
‘In some of these cases, Autocade is the ﬁrst site to get this information online. In other cases, we’re the ﬁrst to publish the information online in English,’ he claims.
He says his inspiration was the work of the late Michael Sedgwick, who authored a series of guides in the early 1980s for Haymarket’s Classic and Sportscar. The format was later followed in Classic and Sportscar’s sister magazine, Your Classic, in some of its guides.
The one-photo, one-paragraph format adopted by Mr Sedgwick gave a useful overview of production years, body styles, engine choices and a brief impression of the model.
Mr Yan used that as his inspiration, but has been careful to not duplicate the format exactly. In addition, he has appended production locations and links to the models’ predecessors and successors, something that could not have been done practically in print.
‘Haymarket’s position with Autocade was that they were ﬁne with the site as long as the content was original,’ he says. ‘That was perfect as far as we were concerned, since we have published magazines for two decades and unoriginal content would have been out of the question.’
JY&A Media, part of Jack Yan & Associates, did Autocade’s overall design (based on a template by Paul Gu, www.paulgu.com) and hosting. Peter Jobes (www.peter-j.co.uk), a British web designer and developer, customized MediaWiki for the site’s needs. Mr Jobes is currently working on Yappey (www.yappey.com), a UK social networking site.
Autocade entered its alpha and beta testing phases in March 2008. Mr Yan had gone on record to say that once the site had reached 1,000 models, the beta tag would be removed. The 1,000th model, the Turkish Tofaş Doĝan, went online on December 20, 2009.
Labels: Autocade, car industry, cars, Jack YanPosted by Jack Yan, 04:50
Autocade hits 1,000 models; beta tag goes off
We began the journey in March 2008 and we are now there: our website Autocade has reached 1,000 models, which means the beta tag gets taken off and we present the site to a wider audience.
The 1,000th car is very unusual and I doubt many people outside Turkey, aside from car enthusiasts, have even heard of it.
Tofaş Doĝan (131). 1986–2002 (prod. unknown). 4-door saloon. F/R, 1581 cm³ (4 cyl. OHC), 1585 cm³ (4 cyl. OHV). Rebodied Fiat 131, which had been built under licence by Tofaş as the Murat 131. More high-line than Şahin. Fairly basic transport, initially with OHV engine, before newer OHC unit added in the 1990s.
As I explain in the press release, which goes out tomorrow, the timing seems right for such a site. We are now accustomed to the brief ways of communicating, such as Twitter and Tumblr. And as shown recently in an issue of Wired, there is a trend toward “good enough”—products such as the Flip do not rely on the highest quality, but the ease of sharing information.
My thanks to all those friends who have supported this venture during the beta phase.
Labels: Autocade, car industry, cars, media, publishingPosted by Jack Yan, 10:51
When Firefox cannot open PHP pages
Why can’t the Firefox people post this very simple solution?
For years now, I will occasionally happen upon a bug where Firefox refuses to open a PHP page. Instead, it prompts me to save it:
If I attempt to open it, it is a tiny XML header ﬁle. The error is with Firefox’s ﬁle type handling.
I can go back to 2006 and ﬁnd this error being discussed, usually among Ubuntu users: it seems to surface more often with them than with Windows users. Nevertheless, it comes up often enough.
You’d be hard pressed to ﬁnd a straight answer. Most technical people prefer blaming the user, or the site, or the server, before they blame Firefox. I do not understand this, given that the error never surfaced in Internet Explorer and I have yet to see it in Safari. It is, as with the character set problem I encountered many years ago, a Firefox bug, but one that Mozilla does not seem to acknowledge.
In all these years, I have only seen one non-Ubuntu geek discuss it as though it were real and not a product of the collective imaginations of certain computer users. That page is here. Sadly, Firefox has moved on since he wrote the page, so the tips about editing about:conﬁg do not work, and the browser no longer allows for the deletion of ﬁle types from the Tools–Options–Application menu (the successor to the Tools–Options–File Types–Manage page he writes about).
However, one tip he gives still works, and I have managed to overcome the error.
One needs simply to delete the mimeTypes.rdf ﬁle he writes about. There are indeed two copies of this ﬁle, so the one that needs to go is in a folder called something like this (in Vista and, presumably, in Windows 7):
The parts in asterisks will be customized to your details. A similar one is in C:\Documents and Settings on Windows XP.
1. Find this, or use the search tool.
2. Go into the folder.
3. Close your Firefox browser.
4. Go to the mimeTypes.rdf file. In my case, I renamed the ﬁle to mimeTypes-old.rdf.
5. Restart Firefox.
All being well, a new mimeTypes.rdf will automatically appear, and will probably be smaller than the original. Once it does, delete the old one. If it doesn’t appear, put the old one back to its original name—you are now in uncharted waters.
The trouble has disappeared for the time being, so here’s hoping a few more of you, who ﬁnd that Firefox cannot open PHP pages without prompting you to save it, can get a resolution with the above. It’s taken over a year for me to ﬁgure it out; hopefully, you will only need a few minutes! Jack 1, computer bofﬁns 0.
Labels: bugs, computing, errors, Firefox, PHPPosted by Jack Yan, 00:00
Not in Accord over the product
These posts about models I’ve put on to Autocade traditionally went on to my Vox blog, back in the days when vox.com worked. I would group them into themes that interested me, and link the entries back to the site.
As of tonight, we have all the Honda Accords up, and I wonder if we will crack the 1,000 barrier before the close of 2009.
The last one to be entered was the North American-market Accord Crosstour, meaning we now have some very distinctive vehicles being sold as the Honda Accord these days.
It might be of interest to readers here—and it does give us an insight into how much the Accord badge, now 33 years old, means to Honda. It might adorn different cars, but they all, by and large, have the same “meaning” to the consumer. This is one interesting exception to the idea of global, homogeneous markets, where the brand’s meaning is very similar worldwide, but the product offering is not.
Honda Accord. 2008 to date (prod. unknown). 4-door sedan, 5-door wagon. F/F, 1997 cm³ (4 cyl. OHC), 2199 cm³ diesel, 2354 cm³ petrol (4 cyl. DOHC). Longer, wider and lower Accord, building on previous model’s strengths with raised quality as Honda goes after Audi A4 and BMW 3er-Reihe. More angular, muscular styling, though not marketed as a sporty car. Collision avoidance and lane-change warning systems. Sold in US and Canada as Acura TSX.
Honda Inspire/Honda Accord (CP3). 2007 to date (prod. unknown). F/F, F/A, 1997 cm³ (4 cyl. OHC), 2354 cm³ (4 cyl. DOHC), 3471 cm³ (V6 OHC). Larger Inspire, now with Legend 3·5 engine in home market. Boxier styling, classed as full size in the US. Sold as Accord in many markets outside Japan, including US, where four-cylinder versions are available. Considered a well balanced all-rounder in the US, and sportier than Japanese rivals.
Honda Accord Coupé (CP3). 2008 to date (prod. unknown). F/F, 2354 cm³ (4 cyl. DOHC), 3471 cm³ (V6 OHC). Coupé version of Honda Inspire (2007–), aimed at the US market. On shortened wheelbase, and classed as mid-sized car in US (unlike full size of the sedan). More attractive styling.
Honda Accord Crosstour. 2010 to date (prod. unknown). 5-door sedan. F/F, F/A, 3471 cm³ (V6 OHC). Much-criticized (for its looks) hatchback version of Accord, marketed as a crossover in North American markets. Pricey, less sporty, and not really a hold-all. First Accord sold in US with four-wheel drive.
Labels: branding, brands, car industry, cars, HondaPosted by Jack Yan, 11:54
One hundred per cent is not good enough
No wonder the ﬁnancial markets have been in turmoil lately: people can’t do mathematics any more.
Last week, Jon Stewart pointed out that Fox News’s poll lacks a bit of credibility:
considering the entire sample adds up to 120 per cent.
This is no anomaly. On my Ad.ly page, analysing the Tweeters who follow me:
100 per cent is now 122 per cent.
When various governments announced their economic stimulus plans, did they include some rule on inﬂating statistics?
Labels: Fox News, humour, mathematics, Murdoch Press, statisticsPosted by Jack Yan, 08:27
Twitter hacked by ‘Iranian Cyber Army’
As of 6 a.m. GMT today, a group calling itself the ‘Iranian Cyber Army’ announced it had hacked Twitter. Users arriving at the site were treated to a page proclaiming that the site had been hacked in an apparent protest against the US.
The hackers, giving the email address of iranian.cybe[email protected], are not too clear in the English, which was poorly translated:
U.S.A Think They Controlling And Managing Internet By Their Access , But They Don't , We Control And Manage Internet By Our Power , So Do Not Try To Stimulation Iranian Peoples To ..............
NOW WHICH COUNTRY IN EMBARGO LIST? IRAN?USA?
WE PUSH THEM IN EMBARGO LIST ;)
We are not too sure who the villains are supposed to be here, reading the above—the US or Iran. Obviously they are against Iranians being stimulated. And that the last line must have been translated from ‘Have a nice day.’
Labels: hackers, internet, Iran, Twitter, USAPosted by Jack Yan, 06:05
The Aston Martin V8 Vantage is my car of the decade
Photographed by Chelfyn Baxter
Autocar is currently talking about what was the car of the decade. I remember in 1989, the magazine ran a series on the most beautiful cars of each decade, and named the most signiﬁcant. That decade, the Ford Sierra was the most signiﬁcant, for mainstreaming the aero look, an assessment I agree with.
One of its writers has named the Audi R8 his choice, and the magazine is doing a poll, asking readers to vote on theirs. The magazine has provided a list, which includes the Hyundai i10 (important for the Indian motor industry’s global exports) and the Toyota Prius NHW20 (but what does it really pioneer than the original NHW10 did not?).
What surprises me is that the Aston Martin V8 Vantage is not on its list. You can write it in, but how come this very British of automobiles is missing?
I know the 911 beats it dynamically on every count. I know it’s not as powerful as the bigger DB9. On the other hand, it looks the business, and the only area where it stirs the soul more than its looks is its sound.
It’s the opposite of the attractive woman who sounds common the minute she opens her mouth. The V8, more than the DB9, and more than the 911, seduces you a second time when you open her up.
What it does represent is the survival of a brand, and how to do a downward brand extension without losing too much exclusivity.
While the V8 Vantage means that more footballers are able to get their hands on one without getting into the Premier League, at least it has assured Aston Martin’s survival for the decade—and a good part of the coming one.
For most of my lifetime, Aston Martin Lagonda has really been a single-range marque with the occasional four-door model that broke down.
Now it ﬁelds a wider product range of the V8, DB9, DBS and Rapide, and we haven’t even looked at the limited-edition models.
It was a downmarket extension that was not botched. For a lesson on how not to do it, one need look no further than the Jaguar X-type, which was Detroit’s way of taking on BMW’s 3er.
One of my friend and colleague Stanley Moss’s Medinge papers dealt with this very topic, indicating that the Europeans did downmarket forays better.
How ironical, in this case, that both these examples happened while Ford ran Aston and Jaguar. However, one might say that Aston was left more to its own devices than Jaguar was.
In addition, the V8 Vantage made Aston Martin a brand that kids could point at and dream about. When I was a child, the car with the same name, which was based on the original DBS, was a brute, but it was never the star of my bedroom wall. It was not cool in the way the Porsche 930 was cool. Or the Lamborghini Countach.
Sure, the V8 did not mobilize the masses nor did it present a new technology.
But for Autocar readers, I suggest they enter this model in for its signiﬁcance to the Aston marque, to British ingenuity, and for a reassuring dose of patriotism.
Labels: 2000s, Aston Martin, Autocar, branding, brands, cars, history, UKPosted by Jack Yan, 12:10
Sign of the time
I have an amateur interest in graphology, and I wanted to have a look at the signatures of the past ﬁve, and the current, American presidents.
The inspiration came when I saw that George W. Bush and his father had similar approaches to the capital B, and I began thinking back to the books I had read on the topic in the 1980s.
None of this post is to be taken as gospel or anything near a professional graphological analysis. We are talking about me struggling to remember what I read over 20 years ago.
James Earl Carter Jr’s signature has quite a large initial cap, and what we type designers would call a low x-height. It suggests some idea of self-importance. The cross-bar of the t is high, suggesting the 39th president had great self-confidence—quite the opposite to how his successor portrayed him. However, the words are closely spaced, which indicates an element of wishing to be close to people. There are small loops, so we are not talking about an extravagant man.
Ronald Reagan, interestingly, also does not have much in the way of extravagance. This is a very simple signature, which goes against stories of the 40th president preparing his own autographed photographs to give to visitors. There is a greater space between the two words, which gives the impression that President Reagan was more aloof than his predecessor. But it is a humble signature: for someone who was an actor, it actually shows a degree of introversion and not wanting to make much noise.
His successor, George Bush, almost abbreviates his ﬁrst name, but his surname is written out in full. The B in Bush is almost a swash in comparison to the remaining letters, almost as though there is a greater sense of family pride and duty over any personal gain.
Bill Clinton has short ascenders, which is unusual. It’s a quiet signature, closer to Ronald Reagan’s than either side of US politics would like to admit. There’s a greater separation still between the two words, indicating even less of a desire to appreciate others, though the elongated tail of the n suggests some force or a wish to have a longer impact than might be permitted.
George W. Bush abbreviates both names, as though he were in a hurry. For a man who gave a down-home image for most of his political campaigning, the 43rd president skilfully executes a very old-fashioned G, placing a greater emphasis on the self than his father. The closeness of the two words suggests he might be the most people-friendly president, more so than Jimmy Carter. While Republicans would agree there, the former president’s stance on many issues wound up alienating Democrats, not to mention a good part of the world.
Finally, the current president. Barack Obama shows creativity and non-conformity, evidenced most by the joint OB, with the B cleverly incorporated as a capital letter inside the O. His signature suggests a great deal of self-conﬁdence, but he is not one to dwell on detail. I disagree with one analysis on the internet saying that the President is disappointed in his father; in fact, I think he ﬁnds his father’s side of the family and his Kenyan heritage a huge source of pride and identity.
For those who disagree with the analyses, then you can either take graphology to be a load of BS, or my recollection of graphological skills to be very poor. Any errors in interpretation above are mine alone. I suppose none of us know for sure, even if we like to, how these men view themselves. They are the best judges of the above, with their wives and children the next best.
Labels: graphology, politics, presidency, signature, USAPosted by Jack Yan, 12:13
Saab shouldn’t object to a Beijing courtship
While I’ve very happily dissed BYD for falling foul of intellectual property law (to which some very un-Chinese face-losing types cried over), and had it in for SAIC over its tactics in trying to buy MG Rover, I’ve always applauded those Chinese ﬁrms who are willing to showcase the true ingenuity of Chinese designers. The latest Cherys, the MG 6, and even the great symbol of Chinese communism, the Hongqi, actually look the part. (The Hongqi, in particular, plays homage to some of the 1960s’ and 1970s’ models, and straddle the part of looking retro and heritage with communist restraint and free-market limousine pretensions.)
I’ll reserve judgement on quality till I see a Red Chinese vehicle in the metal, but right now, BAIC looks like the only automaker that might be able to give Saab a shot.
It’s not beyond Spyker’s capability. If I thought that Koenigsegg could make a go of Saab, then why not Spyker? A lot of it is restoring the corporate culture and reinstil that Saab pride. (It’s the sort of move John Egan made at Jaguar when he put a large leaper mascot back at the factory and had an unveiling ceremony. The cars might have been badly made, but at least the pride was back.) While Koenigsegg had plans for a solar car, which ﬁts marvellously with Swedes’ business and social conscience, Spyker might be the sort of owner that would encourage Swedish innovation. Saab’s engineers have not all disappeared and the new 9-5, from what I have seen, is still quite a capable and distinctive car.
But does it have the readies to ensure long-term survival for Saab? That’s the hardest question to get one’s head around, because if it were there in the family silver, why hadn’t it been used to launch smaller, less exclusive Spykers? Simple: even if the money were there, Spyker hasn’t had downmarket plans in mind. Will it be able to take on a (relatively speaking) volume manufacturer and turn it around, or will Saab simply become another limited-production line, being built by a few hundred staff in Sweden?
Meanwhile, we are seeing some interesting tactics being employed by Beijing. I already knew that the old 9-5 production line was making its way over to China, but the latest news is that the 9-3 is heading east, too. Powertrain technology and tooling have also gone, and Saab people will help BAIC integrate the technology into its cars. The Murdoch Press claims that the current 9-5 has also headed east, but I wonder if this is a typo.
BAIC lacks, of course, a brand, but its styling is fairly sharp among the Chinese automakers when it comes to its own-design work.
The sales do not bode well for the Swedish worker, but what does one expect of a conservative government that has been keen on selling everything from Absolut to a part of TeliaSonera? It was predictable, and similar moves in New Zealand have done little for the country’s productivity and wealth.
This is not a popular view in the Swedish business press, which embraces the technocracy, but it is all too familiar to most New Zealanders, who wound up opposing asset sales by the late 1980s.
However, I digress, and there is plenty there for another blog post.
The BAIC acquisitions have been done legally and at arm’s length. There are no stories emerging from Trollhättan about Saab managers getting drunk as Chinese executives entertained them, or false promises about joint ventures that failed to materialize. Already, this shows good faith and face.
The company has learned from the days when the Jeep Cherokee design somehow leaked from the company and pirate ﬁrms were churning out a model to which BAIC itself had the exclusive Chinese licence. It might actually be quite a good defender of intellectual property.
It has roughly the same number of years in JVs as SAIC, initially with Chrysler, and more recently with Hyundai, so we are not talking about a bunch of amateurs.
And BAIC has dreams of international expansion. What Chinese ﬁrm doesn’t, at this level? What it eyes is less the 9-3 and 9-5, but the Saab name that could adorn a whole generation of new cars.
The conservative government of Sweden is unlikely to kick up much of a fuss on behalf of the Swedish worker if more assets go to Beijing.
However, this might be the lesser of two evils, if some production is kept in Sweden—even if it is assembly—than for it to fade away completely as a slightly downmarket Spyker.
It would ensure the continuation of a brand that will inherently be tied to Sweden, even if some componentry comes off Chinese production lines.
And is being Chinese that much worse than being German, when Saabs have been rebodied Opel Vectras for some time now?
If indeed Swedish engineers are ﬂying out Beijing these days to help productionize the 9-3 and 9-5, then the quality will surely be up to Swedish levels.
It keeps the door open long-term for top-end Saabs still emerging from Trollhättan while more basic models emerge from Beijing. Eastern markets are the ones that are really growing these days, and basic economics suggest that the products should be built where they are most desired.
And at least whatever BAIC builds will be of Saab design, albeit on Opel platforms. It will not be a Japanese Saab, the 9-2X, which the company’s brand adorned earlier this century when GM had a Subaru share holding. It will not be a big SUV based on the Oldsmobile Bravada and made in Ohio, another of GM’s abominations (though at least that kept buyers at Saab when, prior the 9-7X’s release, they were ﬂocking to SUVs made by other brands).
Whatever BAIC builds at least will have a Saab soul, not one dictated by Detroit economics. BAIC itself has an electric car design which would work quite well with the Saab brand, too. GM’s failure to grasp anything about the Saab culture—which, incidentally, contrasts with Ford’s ability to keep the brand essence of most of its acquisitions, including Volvo—meant that any differentiation and distinctiveness were washed away by cost controls and the GM way. If it could not keep its own Stateside Saturn division unique, what hope was there for an out-of-sight, out-of-mind outpost, starved of resources to develop new models?
I wish Saab and Koenigsegg had tied up, or Saab had the volume to be independent. These are not options. Looking at what we have, BAIC might not be the worst suitor. If Saab becomes its only international brand, it certainly would treasure it more than GM, with its many divisions, ever did. And if it understands that brand value and country of origin have some important ties to car buyers, as Tata did when it acquired Jaguar and Land Rover, then Sweden might not lose out.
Labels: BAIC, Beijing, branding, brands, cars, communism, conservatism, copyright, corporate culture, design, ethics, globalization, GM, intellectual property, politics, Red China, Saab, Spyker, SwedenPosted by Jack Yan, 09:19
The 17-year ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ rule
Anyone notice how there’s a 17-year cycle when ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ surfaces into mainstream consciousness? The original was released in A Night at the Opera in 1975, returned to the Zeitgeist with Wayne’s World in 1992 (perhaps inspired by the resurgence of interest in Freddie Mercury’s work after the singer’s death the year before), and has come back once more thanks to the Muppets last month. At this rate, 2026 will swing by and it’ll hit us again. Regular as clockwork.
Labels: 1970s, 1975, 1990s, 1992, 2000s, 2009, film, humour, Mike Myers, music, Queen, retro, the MuppetsPosted by Jack Yan, 12:07
Putin on the Ritz
I told you some of the less work-like things would return to this blog.
However, for those who remember the personal stuff I used to include here two and three years ago, this isn’t that much of a departure.
I Tumbled today that I felt Fred Astaire was unbeatable in performing ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz’ in Blue Skies in 1946. But Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin surely comes a close second in this video, Putin on the Ritz? Guest appearance from former US president George W. Bush.
I thought this was very cleverly done.
Labels: George W. Bush, humour, Vladimir PutinPosted by Jack Yan, 02:23
Descents into the mainstream
Photographed by Jonathan Hayward
Those celebrities do those grand farewell tours, only to come back a while later and do another one.
I wonder if my farewell post at my Vox blog will be like that. The comments make very interesting reading as Pete and I dissect the site and give it a post mortem.
This was a very interesting and poignant observation from Pete, whom I met when 20Six was still a cool, vibrant UK community (back in 2006):
In many ways I wish blogging never went mainstream, it was the worst thing that happened for it because it’s left a lot of people who loved it feeling like ﬁsh out of water and there are lots who don’t really do it now. (I note there are some who do, but generally.)
I’m relieved someone else has said this as I had started to wonder if maybe I was just fading out and the community was still thriving in other places and with other people. It just feels like back then we all did it because we wanted too, in the main there was no agenda or anything it was just genuine desire to use this method of communication.
I responded (some links not in original):
Every medium suffers this fate: newspapers were once respectable before Rupert Murdoch; email was a nice medium before spammers began harvesting addresses. Blogs were, by and large, civil places to exchange opinions before that descended into anonymous name-calling in comments. Now I see in New Zealand a ﬂorist has allegedly manipulated Google Maps to harm her competitors—what motivates someone to purposely destroy data that has been freely and publicly compiled for the common good?
I still believe there is room for huge online communities, including some form of modern chat room (as we had discussed before). The world has moved on and maybe some are afraid of potential abuse, something we bloggers did not have to contend with back in the early 2000s. The sharing during the Clinton era seems to have evaporated, and we humans have been the undoing of that.
I can understand why sites such as A Small World are so exclusive: they don’t want to see the same decline. There are harsh penalties for “friending” people you do not know, including lifetime bans. Snobbery, sometimes, can be our friend—something I never thought I would catch myself saying. Maybe that is the next stage, and Yappey itself is so far the sort of forum where we can exchange ideas quite freely without an agenda.
It begs the question: what next for the online world? Oh, it’s not Facebook. I am talking about a site that respects its users.
Labels: civility, civilization, decay, internet, mediaPosted by Jack Yan, 00:07
A great ﬁnalé for the Palin book tour
Looks like the Palinomenon has continued, this time on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien, where the former governor got her own back against William Shatner, who had lampooned two of her speeches and excerpts from her autobiography.
Judging by the audience applause, the response to Sarah Palin—you know, the Sarah Palin with more Facebook followers than Oprah Winfrey—seemed to be positive. Americans, like anyone, enjoy a dose of humour and the ability to poke fun at oneself, and I dare say this book tour of Sarah Palin, which gave her a larger platform than her opponents, has done her image considerable good for those with shorter memories.
I still don’t agree with a lot of what she says—and now I understand that she’s a climate change doubter to boot—but I take my hat off to her performance on American network television.
Don’t be surprised now if I say that a future George W. Bush book tour will go down very well, once a suitable time has passed for people to don rose-coloured glasses about 2001–9. Regardless of how well or badly he does (depending on one’s point of view), some Obama fatigue will set in, as it does for every president. Apart from those who have stuck ﬁrm to the idea that Bush is a crook, a lot of people might begin to think that a Dubya autobiography might make good reading.
Labels: comedy, Conan O’Brien, George W. Bush, humour, politics, Sarah Palin, The Tonight Show, USA, William ShatnerPosted by Jack Yan, 05:42
My blogging goes back to the future
I’m very likely returning to Blogger for my own posting, after the failure of Vox.
The Six Apart people, who run Vox, have been amazing in trying to help me ﬁgure out my issue, but despite eliminating dormant neighbours and about 7 kbyte of tags from the blog—which should make it more trim than it was before the site ceased to let me compose readily on October 28—I’m still at my wit’s end.
As I removed today’s set of neighbours, I discovered many who had left Vox after being fed up with its various bugs. However, only author Patricia Volonakis Davis has exactly the same symptoms as me, and she has relatively few tags to her 50 or so blog posts. Whether it’s down to the tags, dodgy neighbours or a corrupted Vox database is anyone’s guess.
The compose screen takes anywhere between two seconds and two days to emerge, and generally takes between 15 minutes to six hours. I have put up with this for nearly two months.
Another possibility is shifting this entire blog on to Wordpress, which remains an option, since Blogger itself has been shown to be horribly unreliable on numerous occasions.
I will still have to go on to Vox to moderate some of the groups I run. Another down side to the site is the number of sploggers who create fake accounts and overrun the groups. (That’s right: sploggers can create posts where I can’t.) I left one yesterday, on social media, after ﬁnding it overrun by sploggers: the site owner herself had left, so there was no one to take care of business.
I’ve prided myself on running very clean groups there, where members can operate in a spam-free environment.
It looks like December 2009 is when I might undo the split between a work blog and a personal blog. Back in 2006, as a Vox beta tester, I liked the site but could not see myself abandoning this blog, which is, after all, at a domain named for me.
It’s lucky I kept this going, otherwise, I’d face the difﬁculty of building an audience here back up from scratch.
Vox offered numerous advantages, including storage space for images and videos, which suited my forays into digital photography nicely. I was able to share some work-related videos there. It’s something I’m going to have to do without (YouTube is too unreliable, and Vimeo too strict, even for licence holders of videos), although I do have a lucire.vox.com blog there where some of these things can still go. (My hesitation is that it is branded with the Lucire name, so it limits what I might like to put up.)
I also enjoyed having the luxury of tags, and I am not sure about whether Blogger labels are related. It might be time to ﬁnd out.
So for three years, the trivial, throw-away comments, clips from favourite TV shows and other non-sensical items went to Vox, and this space was left to more “serious” matters (with some exceptions along the way).
All this is, of course, moot. I don’t know if I will enjoy returning to Blogger, for starters. I have to hack in HTML because the compose screen here will not allow hard spaces for paragraphing, and I don’t believe in having line breaks between paragraphs. Tumblr has proved to be a fairly good platform if I don’t want comments—but what is the point of a blog, and the engagement that they should have, without them?).
There is no point forcing myself to adapt to a technology when the opposite should hold true. But right now, this looks like the way forward, so expect less work-like items surfacing back here from time to time.
Labels: Blogger, blogging, bugs, computing, errors, Lucire, photography, Six Apart, videos, VoxPosted by Jack Yan, 00:12
The Google ﬂorist forger ﬁghts the internet’s community spirit
[Cross-posted] Remember when the internet was full of educated people at universities, geeks wanting to help fellow netizens out, and people with high-minded ideals of reaching out to colleagues to make the world better? I suggested in 2007 that those days were long gone. And now, according to the internet-loathing mainstream media, we get people wilfully destroying data that Google freely compiles for the public good.
How shameful that this alleged manipulator (above left), who is accused of altering the information of her competitors, is in New Zealand.
There’s no sense of community spirit left in some circles. It’s something we need to change for the next generation. Posted by Jack Yan, 09:21
Font Police abandons Pligg, goes to Tumblr
The original Font Police site, which was started as a gag, is no more. Its entries have been moved to a Tumblr blog, and can still be reached using the fontpolice.org URL.
The problem was Pligg. This was our second attempt at administering a site using Pligg, and the second time we have given up on it.
While the support was excellent—and I thank ‘Yankidank’ for all the timely help I received to every question—Pligg seemed to be very easy exploited by spammers. They would add fake links and comments every day, and by the end I had somewhere close to 500 fake registrants and about four legit ones. I went into the site more to weed out spammers than have fun, which was the original point.
I was not on the latest version (mine was 1.0.1; the latest is 1.0.3), so I cannot comment on whether Pligg has ﬁxed its problem with spammers.
The previous Pligg installation, which we tried to incorporate in to the Lucire website, died because I could not get any answers on the support boards.
Since contributions to Font Police were emailed to me anyway, there seemed little need to have a Digg-type interface as I originally envisaged.
Those who have followed my ongoing troubles with Vox since October 28—the site has a glitch that prevents me from composing new blog posts—will know that I went to my old Tumblr blog, which I started in 2007, as a stand-by. It was reacquainting myself with that service that led me to think that Tumblr might work for something as simple as Font Police.
Not that Tumblr was without its issues. If one wants to set up a custom domain, Tumblr provides an IP address and advises that it be entered in to the domain name’s A records. Unfortunately, Bulkregister (who handles our domain name registrations) did not like the IP address and claimed it was invalid. I had to set up a forwarding hosting account on our server to redirect people to the Tumblr blog.
I imagine that having most of the pages at tumblr.com won’t do the fontpolice.org domain any favours when it comes to search engine ranking, but for now it’s an acceptable price to pay to stop spammers from getting extra links to dodgy websites at my expense. That can only be good for the internet at large. Posted by Jack Yan, 08:17
Chrysler goes all Lancia with new TVC—the other Italian guy was more direct
Remember the days when Chrysler rested on the words of another Italian guy, Chairman Lee?
Inspirational, and simple. Lido gave US audiences a direct appeal, even if it was hard to believe that the LeBaron GTS could take on BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes.
Now it has gone all arty. Under Fiat control, it is adapting some commercials from the Italian company. Here’s one that’s being used by its Lancia brand:
Here’s the Americanized version:
Spot the difference.
It’s a far cry from the straight-talk of Mr Iacocca. It’s a lot like that high-concept ad for Mr Plow (from, might I add, McMahon & Tate) on The Simpsons, when Lisa asks Homer, ‘Dad, was that our ad?’
Homer replies, puzzled, ‘I … don’t … know!’
Instead of a new and very good-looking Lancia Delta, we have a Chrysler 300 looking very dated in this commercial, even if I agree with the sentiment. I am not convinced it’ll hold Americans’ attention that this is a new Chrysler and a new beginning.
I realize Chrysler needs to shift product now before new products arrive, and the quality, apparently, has been improved since the Daimler and Cerberus days. That message, which is pretty important to buyers, doesn’t come across that strongly.
The aligning of Chrysler to Lancia is not a bad idea. Eight years ago, I wrote that Ford should reconceive Mercury as a sort of American Lancia, so it seems Fiat has a similar idea. It’s just that commercials need not be clones when American consumers have different tastes from European ones.
I can see the meeting-room logic behind it, after having convinced itself that Chrysler is an American Lancia, and of the similar values, according to its brand boss, Olivier François (a French guy who likes Italians, bit like President Sarkozy). But does the spot resonate?
I am not American, but I am having some trouble wrapping my head around it, unless the product were right. Imagine this as the ﬁrst TVC for the redesigned 300, or a Chryslerﬁed Lancia Delta. It gives the right quality image with the European backdrops. It’s a cheeky way of saying the quality is the equal of the European brands’, regardless of how true that is.
Still, does this mean that some day we will see the First Lady of France, Carla Bruni, sell Chryslers?
Problem: the only car that size that Chrysler has is the Dodge Caliber, which could never be sexed up without some reference to plastic, and I can’t see the First Lady getting in to PVC Emma Peel-style to ﬂog some motors. Posted by Jack Yan, 21:35
A wake-up call at Global Entrepreneurship Week
[Cross-posted at Your Wellington] In the second week of November, I attended two functions for Global Entrepreneurship Week. The ﬁrst was Wellington to the World 2009, where numerous local businesses, who had made it big worldwide, got a chance to talk about how they leveraged the internet. Solutions such as social media, virtual working and licensing were among the topics raised.
This year, Richard McManus of ReadWriteWeb was the keynote speaker. I had heard of ReadWriteWeb before but—and this is terrible for someone who went through the same thing with Lucire—thought it was foreign. Admittedly, I tune in to ReadWriteWeb when there’s a news headline that intrigues me, and sometimes, those are from one of its overseas bureaux.
It was a great wake-up call—that there are many world-class businesses right here in Wellington—and I enjoyed listening to Richard, who is going through many of the same phases as we had in the late 1990s and early 2000s. I remember the days when I had not met some of my team members in person, judging them by the quality of their work. It works quite well in the dot-com sphere. And for most of my 22 years in business, many people did not make the connection between our properties and New Zealand—including New Zealanders. (I still hear people think that my businesses have some foreign ownership or overseas partners, which is untrue.)
We need to change the mindset of New Zealanders, myself included, toward thinking the best comes from this country. And if you look around the country, Wellington is the most creative city. We have as much capability of creating world-class businesses as anyone else. In fact, the Kiwi can-do mentality suggests we have a greater capability of doing this.
This is one of the reasons behind the free wiﬁ that I would like to see implemented if I am elected as mayor in October 2010. It is about job creation, and it is about civic pride. Weta, Sidhe and ReadWriteWeb have already shown that it is possible—and I would love to see more entrepreneurs get the right breaks to make Wellington even more vibrant.
Posted by Jack Yan, 05:44
Blogs don’t give everyone free speech, as Vox blocks me
[Cross-posted] I have to conclude, sadly, that Vox is speciﬁcally blocking me from using its site.
This is so typical of my experience with technology, one that does not seem to be shared by other people. Am I just good at breaking websites and programs?
I argue I am not. I simply reveal more bugs because I am online more.
Today, I set up a new account on Vox under another name and can happily compose there. I won’t, because I don’t believe in using noms de plume. But it has proved that Vox is not letting me have my voice.
This must be that American irony we have all heard so much about.
In my years online, I have had Yahoo! Groups delete all the messages from one of my groups, even though there was no TOS violation. Yahoo! reps failed to address the matter. The best they could do was copy and paste from their FAQs, none of which dealt with the situation at hand.
I have had Google’s Blogger service delete the home page to the Beyond Branding Blog.
I have seen the same service delete Vincent Wright’s Social Media Consortium blog and over four years of work. My appeals to Google have fallen on deaf ears. Enquiries submitted in July, August and on September 13—after Google claimed it would investigate the bars on that blog ‘within two business days’—have been ignored. A further enquiry, after following the advice of a blogger who seemed rather well informed about blog deletions on Blogger, has also fallen on deaf ears, despite my following his suggestions to the letter. (He also told me of the two-day rule. I think two days have passed since November 23, but maybe Americans measure time differently after Doc Brown invented time travel in 1955?)
And now, Vox has barred me, ensuring that, of the last 30 days, it only worked faultlessly for three. I can do everything on the blogging platform except blog, which effectively renders it useless.
After three years, Vox’s terms of service (updated October 8, 2009) still say that the site is in beta and ‘You understand and agree that the Service may still contain software bugs, suffer disruptions and not operate as intended or designated.’
I might understand and agree with this, but these bugs are so unreasonable and so darned near intolerable that they do Six Apart, Vox’s creators, no credit. If it were 2006, I could understand the blog not working. But three years on and its uptime is three days out of thirty when it comes to my use of the service?
The difference between all of these companies is that Daisy at Six Apart has been communicating with me and showed she cares; none of the other organizations have given a damn.
But I hardly think I am important enough to be targeted by Vox.
What this is highlights for me is the collapse of ‘Made in USA’. Once we thought this just meant shoddy Chrysler Sebrings. Now it is deteriorating in the tech sector.
Which can only be good for the rest of us who can build that better mousetrap or, for that matter, a blogging platform that cares.
PS.: I think this might be the last post I tag for Technorati, as I am not sure if anyone still uses that site.—JY Posted by Jack Yan, 11:00
NoteEntries from 2006 to the end of 2009 were done on the Blogger service. As of January 1, 2010, this blog has shifted to a Wordpress installation, with the latest posts here.
With Blogger ceasing to support FTP publishing on May 1, I have decided to turn these older pages in to an archive, so you will no longer be able to enter comments. However, you can comment on entries posted after January 1, 2010.
Individual JY&A and Medinge Group blogs
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Copyright ©200210 by Jack Yan & Associates. All rights reserved. Photograph of Jack Yan by Chelfyn Baxter.