The choice is ours

May 1, 2007

Resurfacing

Filed under: Blogroll — shippingpal @ 7:17 pm

Finally resurfacing from hibernation for a couple of reasons, one of which is to note that in the relatively short time I’ve been blogging, the sheer number of blogs on WordPress has increased from about half a million to 938,000 at last check (moments ago) – if they are all updated as regularly as this one, that means there must be two or three new posts on the site every day…

Well, I’ve been busy doing, you know, other things…

In other news, celebration time as Liverpool edge out the despised Chelsea (AKA best team money can buy) to a seat in the Champions League final. Not having TSN I had to follow it on the Guardian, but it was almost as exciting. Now, if AC Milan can edge past Man United (unlikely I’d say), we’ll have a rematch of the legendary 05 final, hopefully with the same outcome, or at least as exciting a match…

I chuckled when I heard that Gordon Brown gave Tony Blair ‘ten out of ten’ for his performance as PM – his anniversary of his decade-long reign marked yesterday by seizing several more opportunities for self-congratulation – what utter political nonsense, I mean, who talks like that? Still, after Labour get crushed in the coming council elections, we’ll get a sense of the kind of score the British public give him. Between the changing of the guard in the UK and the upcoming French elections, Europol watching is more interesting than it’s been since the last German election was decided by the two main opposing parties creating a coalition…

A brief rant about the LCBO and Vintages in particular, who continue to insult my intelligence and knowledge of fair market rates. The latest offer is for a limited release of Brane Cantenac, an average-to-ok Margaux that they have the gall to price as if it was some kind of mindblowing sensory overload. Between that and their other recent Leoville Poyferre release, they must be making a killing passing off this stuff as rare – if we were in the States I could get it for about half-price. Oh wait, the exorbitant taxes on my wine consumption help to house the homeless you say, if only it were so…

Currently reading: Planet of Slums (Mike Davis)

Currently hearing: Fully Body Workout Volume 1 (Catwash)

Currently watching: Sopranos finale (HBO)

April 2, 2007

Filed under: Blogroll — shippingpal @ 4:42 pm

Missed a week of posting there after being captured in disputed territorial waters… Back now with deadlines looming… It’s exactly as they described it in school – deadlines come and go, progress slows down as you have to work harder and harder to find the last nagging glitches, tempers and patience are tested, but through it all I am optimistic that we will have the killer app.  Our team is working overtime on two continents to iron out the last details and pull everything off.  I have my list of requirements for tomorrow morning, and I’m checking it off, so no time to post…

March 21, 2007

Better late than…

Filed under: Business Development, music — shippingpal @ 10:02 am

It’s weeks like the last two that make maintaining a blog rather difficult – so much happening, so many meetings, so much code to write/evaluate/re-write… between that and my busy social life, there isn’t much time at the end of the day to gather one’s thoughts into anything approaching coherence. At any rate, a brief rundown would have to at least include mention of our ever-improving API, now being written in ASP and .NET versions for all you Microsoft victims, our expanding network – we’re now returning results continent-wide from FedEx and UPS, with Dynamex soon to come – and our continuing efforts to get our second round of capital in place. As the company has grown over the last 12 months, I’m somewhat less hands-on when it comes to decisionmaking on the corporate level, as I’m busy in the trenches building the technology that the firm is valued on. That said, I am still in close contact with the partners and all decisions made are unanimous – aside from a few…

Out in the real world, I was devastated to find out that Friday’s Booka Shade concert was cancelled when the band got snowed in at NYC; it was rescheduled to Sunday, but that didn’t suit me as Monday promised to be insanely busy – I now have the dubious pleasure of having missed my favourite band in London AND Toronto. Still, we compensated somewhat beforehand by heading to the Trane Studio to see my good friend Waleed Abdulhamid kick it with his band of jazz musicians, and they were on fire that night.

Currently reading: ‘Woolmer’s death treated as murder‘ – intrigue in the intl cricketing community

Currently hearing: Neon Bible – The Arcade Fire

Currently watching: Fast Food Nation (dir: Richard Linklater)

March 12, 2007

The good, the bad, and the very good

Filed under: Blogroll — shippingpal @ 10:05 am

Headed out to Koolhaus last night to catch Damon Albern’s latest incarnation, The Good, The Bad and The Queen.  While the album seems a bit mopey and introspective, the live sound was massive and dynamic, and the show was dynamite.  The band performed a fairly short set – understandable since they only have one album – with Damon and bassist Paul Simonen (ex of the Clash) alternating bandleader position.  Afrofunk legend Tony Allen laid down a rock-solid groove, and the band was accompanied by a string quartet.  All in all, a worthwhile Sunday evening.

I find Albern’s new direction to be intriguing – there’s a delicacy and deliberate anti-pop sensibility which really forces you to listen.  As the composer of some of the most absurdly catchy music of the last two decades – Blur’s Girls and Boys, almost anything by the Gorillaz – it must have taken a lot of discipline to retain the skeletal, subdued tone of GBQ.  Either way, he once again takes off in a new direction, proving himself to be the most creative voice of the (woefully named) Britpop generation.

Currently reading: The Looming Tower – Lawrence Wright

Currently hearing: The Good, The Bad and The Queen

Currently watching: Pan’s Labyrinth (dir. Guillermo del Toro)

March 6, 2007

Work, music, batteries, placebos

Filed under: Business Development, News and Comment — shippingpal @ 1:20 pm

I don’t have a lot of time to post this week as we finally wrap up our API build, coming soon to www.shippingpal-api.com. In the meantime, I’ve got a lot of coding to do myself, as well as integrating all the third party work that has gotten us this far. Such dedication – I even elected to stay in last night rather than check out the Toronto debut of a band that’s been getting a fair bit of play in my iTunes, the Submarines. Oh well, they were only the opening act.

In other news, my MacBook Pro is experiencing battery issues, a total pain as I can’t afford the time to put it in for repairs, but it has only about half the battery life I had two weeks ago, and it cuts off without any warning, leaving me in the middle of a major project without a reliable, portable system. So I’m somewhat chained to my desk, which might be advantageous considering the amount of work I face in the next few days.  Strangely, running diagnostics using the hand coconutBattery app shows no problems – it’s still running at full capacity, but it dies well before the battery indicator goes into the red.

Across the web, I see that – centuries of anecdotal evidence notwithstanding – a bunch of scientists are claiming that coffee does not in fact wake you up in the morning. I don’t drink it every day, but I have in the past, and this sounds patently absurd. I know entire companies that run on the stuff, and I’m not inclined to think it a placebo…

Currently reading: Apple discussion board – MacBook Pro battery

Currently hearing: Declare a New State – The Submarines

Currently watching: No Reservations (Discovery Travel)

February 27, 2007

Craig vs Bill – clash of the titans

Filed under: News and Comment — shippingpal @ 10:24 am

Some of the big web personalities want to come out to play. I caught Craigslist founder Craig Newmark on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart last night, following his Der Spiegel interview of a week or so ago. He seems to be a funny and clever fellow, pointing out to Stewart that the tech billionaires he knows personally don’t seem any happier than the average person. In the newspaper interview, he goes even further in asserting independence from market forces, with his bold declaration “We often operate by what feels right or not. No business plans. We’re engineers.” Indeed, it seems that Craigslist’s tremendous success can in some ways be ascribed to the fact that it was never purchased by a big player with the intent of turning a profit (though one of the other founders did sell out to eBay some years ago, so they have a stake of some sort in the project).

Elsewhere (specifically, the Washington Post), Bill Gates provides his practical advice for “How to Keep America Competitive” – given the timing, it’s unsurprising that he suggests we all upgrade to Vista… Actually, he doesn’t, and makes a sound argument for education and immigration to help to foster traditional American innovation and excellence. It’s worth a read.

Currently reading: Craigslist

Currently hearing: Panic Prevention – Jamie T

Currently watching: The Prestige (dir. Christopher Nolan)

February 23, 2007

The struggle continues

Filed under: Business Development — shippingpal @ 12:37 pm

The work continues on our API, though we have had a major breakthrough over the last few days and are on schedule for early March to roll out the build.  It’s been a challenge, with all sorts of issues emerging, and a few instances where we simply thought too much about certain things, instead of just rolling with the simplest solution – that’s a lesson that needs to be learnt more than once.  We have also added a number of major carriers to our network, including FedEx, Dynamex, and USPS, so we really are in the process of becoming a central data-collecting point for continent-wide shipping options.  Fun!  Now back to work…

Currently reading: Empire – Niall Ferguson

Currently hearing: Renaissance – The Masters Series 7 – Dave Seaman

Currently watching: The Queen (dir. Stephen Frears)

February 16, 2007

In my natural Habitat

Filed under: Blogroll — shippingpal @ 1:59 pm

I was out at Habitat last night, on Queen West, for what must rank as perhaps the best meal I’ve eaten in Toronto in quite some time. Arriving early, there was a bit of a delay which the manager put down to Microsoft problems in printing out their new menu, and as an Office veteran I believe him, but once seated we were indulged royally. I should also mention in passing that the room itself – fondly recalled as the former home of Future Bakery on Queen – is one of the most nicely appointed in the city, all dark woods and creamy cloth with large booths and tasteful music selections.

We were presented with an amuse of grilled octopus, chorizo and olive which was superb – octopus can often be unpleasantly rubbery, but here it was deftly handled, very delicate and mild, while the chorizo was spicy and a single olive – dark, smoky – balanced everything nicely.

I started with the foie gras, which was seared and served on a brioche, with a fried quail egg, a piece of double-smoked bacon and a single date, which was somehow infused with coriander seed. It was everything you imagine – fatty, sweet, indulgent – and if it wasn’t for my cardiologist’s recommendations, I would eat it every day.

My main was filet mignon, served with rainbow chard and potato rosti. Nicely plated, it went superbly with the manager’s suggestion of a glass of a big Southern French red from Pic St. Loup. The beefiness of the meat merged wonderfully with the huge structure of the wine. Up to that point, I’d been indulging in a bottle of white Corbieres, just one of many unusual options in their substantial wine list – primarily grenache blanc with a few other grapes I’d never heard of before, it was medium bodied and very enjoyable. The manager, a fellow wine geek, even went so far as to call his distributor to get me more info on this bottle, which I’d never seen before – in fact, I didn’t even know they made white in Corbieres.

Dessert sent the meal over the top, with a deconstructed apple tart a la mode, which was composed of a wedge of baked apple, an upside-down cake, and olive oil ice cream, which was deliciously subtle and oaky – it didn’t behave like regular ice cream, but was appropriately creamy and smooth. Combine that with a gratis round of late harvest Vidal from an artisanal producer here in Ontario, and you have a meal to remember.

Currently reading: Noel Gallagher, in his own words (Independent)

Currently hearing: The Good, The Bad, and the Queen

Currently watching: Little Miss Sunshine (dir. Jonathan Dayton)

February 8, 2007

Phantom Power

Filed under: Blogroll — shippingpal @ 6:06 pm

I recently came across a very interesting site called TriplePundit, most interesting being their ‘Ask Pablo‘ section with Pablo Päster, which had some rather arresting information about bottled water and its drain on resources – namely, that it takes about 200 litres of water to create a single plastic bottle, which contains 1.25l.  Even more interesting and worthwhile, though, was Pablo’s new year’s resolution, to stop drawing phantom power, by which he means the tiny, though cumulatively large, drains of power caused by things like the clock on your microwave or DVD player: “Let’s say that I live in the average household. Let’s assume that the average household has two mobile phone chargers, around 5 more chargers and power supplies for various other electronic devices (your Dust-Buster Vac, your I-Pod charger, etc.), two laptop power supplies, one microwave, and two TV/VCR combos (or one TV, one VCR, and one Stereo). This adds up to 37.8 W (1.8 x 7 + 7 x 2 + 1.2 + 10). That’s enough to power three CF bulbs around the clock! In one day this amounts to 0.9072 kWh of energy, or 331 kWh per year ($53.80 at current CA rates).”

It turns out Pablo is a graduate of the Presidio School of Management, which is also involved in such worthwhile projects as the Chicago Climate Exchange and DriveNeutral.  It got me to thinking about what our company can do to reduce emissions – and if I come up with any good ideas, I’ll post them here.  Please feel free to do the same.

Currently reading: FP Passport

Currently hearing: Anything – Martina Topley Bird

Currently watching: M (dir. Fritz Lang)

February 5, 2007

More than money

Filed under: Blogroll — shippingpal @ 7:22 pm

I recently read this very interesting article (Nine things developers want more than money) about what motivates developers, and it got me to thinking about the kind of challenges I like to deal with, and how Shipping Pal has literally exploded over the past year or so as we transitioned from our working proof-of-concept to the actual creation of a web-enabled continent wide shipping network.  We’ve expanded our XML systems on numerous occasions as various issues arose, and I suppose the single biggest transition was from mySQL to MSSQL, which required a lot of rewriting of code as they use different commands for everything from echoing data in PHP right through to table structures and other core elements.  Now comes the API, with its attendant struggles.

My preference is for challenging, but not insurmountable, problem-solving.  Stuff that might take a while to design and build, but ultimately provides something of real value to the system.  A current example would be our new package type script, which I’m currently working on – it’s essentially an order-picking extension for our e-commerce customers, and it involves finding the optimal fit between the objects being shipped and the boxes which will contain them.  All sorts of challenges involved, since we can try cubing the whole shipment, but then if we need to resize it, it has to be in the most efficient manner possible.  I’m still working on all the details, but it’s proving intriguing, and once it’s built – and it will be built – we’ll have something really useful.

Currently reading: Sleeping with the Devil – Robert Baer

Currently hearing: The Blackfish Remixes

Currently watching: Blood Diamond

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