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Thanks, dudes! That was really damned fun. Started off a bit awkwardly, what with the laser WiFi not penetrating the room, and me speaking in a style dangerously similar to Al Gore, trying to ex-pla-ain the concept of weblogs without actually having any to show. Then we moved rooms, and established some excruciatingly slow connection that somehow froze on this silly site (the word "dude" sounds pretty funny in accented French) ... but then somebody established a quick connection and we were off.

The first hour was mostly introductory stuff about weblogs; we ended up mentioning and/or showing InstaPundit, Layne, the NoWar Collective, Kuro5hin, that crazy-smart & prolific Ito guy I'd never heard of until yesterday (even though he's ancient news to many of you) ... Metafilter, Slashdot, Andrew Sullivan, PayPal, Amazon, Blogger, Moveable Type, some incomprehensible (to me) blog-publishing system called Wiki (I hyped the introductory virtues of Blogger as much as humanly possible) ... plus a whole mess of funny frog-logs, including a Gawker-style party site in Paris (Mediatrix, maybe?), where people are encouraged to e-mail in their cell-phone photos of drunken celebrities. I'd include links or whatever but we're in an awful hurry to head down the Alp before the Black Ice sets in.

The second hour was largely fun with the MoBlog, and I spent most of it slack-jawed and/or slapping my knee. Special kudos to Jeff Jarvis, for the American flag & McDonalds photos (not to mention the commentary on his site), and to Bill in Paris for the fine beer shots and flood reports. I still can't believe that stuff's being done on cell phones.... Suppose I ought to get me one of them some day.

Boy, those political conventions in 2004 sure are going to be fun. And I sure hope that some of the Iraq-war reporters are being kitted with fab new gear, such as that MIT deal where a webcam is dialed into your sunglasses. I am about as tech-savvy as a hobbit, (one t, right?) -- I've long been waiting for the day when someone could emerge from the techno-babble and say "OK, here's your small cordless typing machine with full-time fast-speed Internet access from anywhere on the globe. It can also handle your pictures and telephony. GO!!" We're still not very close, but some day, SOME DAY!! ..... we're gonna see Atlanta!

01/10/2003 08:41 AM  |  Comment (3)

Here is the Moblog Address: This is the nut-graf Manu can't quite post yet:

At 4 p.m. French time (10 a.m. EST,) we'll test a European Moblog: a blog anyone can update and enrich from a mobile phone, by sending emails, SMS or MMS. You can try to post messages (post-at-moblog.biz), photos, SMS (to + 46 701 809 599) and see the moblog at Moblog.biz.
Go crazy, kids!

01/10/2003 03:49 AM  |  Comment (1)

Testing: We're experiencing some technical difficulties here in Autrans, and I'm making sure our ability to post isn't being thwarted by the Golem (or Gollum, who Emmanuelle desperately wants a T-shirt of, for reasons best left unexplored). For the record, the 5-course meal last night ranks among the 20 best dining experiences I can remember -- hot peppered legume soup, lasagna bathed in bechamel, nine kinds of cheese, a dessert cup of yogurt and various nature-berries.... and this was served up en masse at a youth hostel..... Make sure to tune in at 9 or 10 EST for the live mo-blog, which you can even participate in (Jarvis!) by sending cell-phone photos and goodwill messages.... If Emmanuelle can update her site, look for details there; otherwise click on the links in the previous post.

01/10/2003 03:32 AM  | 

Live, From Autrans, France!: Hello, friends! I’m here in southeastern France, up an Alp or two from Grenoble, watching my charming wife wow her countrymen (and men they mostly are) at the 7th annual Autrans Internet conference:. Tomorrow, (that’s Friday afternoon, Frog time) she leads a panel discussion not just on web-logs, but on mo-blogs, which are apparently sites created on mobile phones. Which, in Europe, are about as common as kneecaps.

I think you can watch the discussion live on some webcam, or at least read about it in real time on a specially made moblog … should be pretty fun; a real smart future dude named Christophe Ducamp will be be on the panel, as will I (can’t wait to try out my new jackass line of the day: “What some people call ‘Balkanization,’ others call ‘liberty’”!) Anyways, see Emmanuelle.net for the details, and please tune in if you can.

French Internet conferences are, ah, a bit different than the ones I’ve attended elsewhere. For instance, I don’t recall many where most of the people you meet work for the State. Nor do I remember many jokes about scrambling in December to meet annual budget allotments for postage, just so you’d keep the same overall funding for next year. The panels I’ve seen (which are admittedly few) have been short on laughs (except for a lone anti-business joke), but the private conversation and drink-talk has been lively. Also, there seems to be a major obsession with Fighting Microsoft to the Death. This has created what one might call anomalies; for instance, people here are very concerned about the Digital Divide & whatnot, but they’ve also managed to insist that around half of the state-owned Internet centers nationwide (for which many attendees work) run exclusively on Linux. Not that my technical abilities are much more advanced than a common escargot, but I couldn’t run a Linux box if you put a Guillotine to my neck. One can only imagine a retired 50-year-old truck driver wobbling into his local e-mail center only to endure a passionate lecture about the Slashdot Revolution….

But I jest.

Europe has been great, thanks for asking. As usual, I have dragged my uninsured body to a handful of preventative medical appointments that end up costing me half or less than what I would pay in the States, where my insurance costs $241.88 a month and only covers one doctor visit every three months (calm down, Seipp, we’re switching!). For instance, the other day I had blood drawn to test my cholesterol and sugar levels (fine, thanks), and the entire exercise cost me 23 Euros. The dentist and back doctor were around the same. Poor Emmanuelle has probably endured enough medical testing to place her on the HMOs’ Permanently Banned List, had it been conducted in the United States. Sneer at the cheese-eaters all you want, hombres, but this nationally expensive and personally cheap health care system has some excellent advantages, and I’m glad I’m fortunate enough to take advantage of them. (We pay some taxes here, so it’s not a totally freeloading situation.)

What else? I’ve been writing article after article after article, though you haven’t seen any of them yet (check the National Post on Saturday). I’ve been almost completely cut off from the Internet, and as usual this has had a marvelous calming effect on the brain-box. Of course, daily stuffings of foie gras, cheese and the Richard family cuisine don’t hurt, nor does the delicious wine.

Spent some time in London, most of it working or in bed, though I did have the pleasure of watching Brian Linse at work (sorry about the cock-up Perry; I’ll see you there soon enough). Brits, as always, are hilarious creatures … and oh, the newspapers! I meant to write y’all up a little best-of, just of funny headlines and cheeky wordplay … maybe after I get back.

Also did some time in the libertarian paradise of Switzerland -- Guns for everybody! Neutrality! Minimal taxes on vice! Trial lawyers kept in check! (Phillip Morris, as a result, has moved its headquarters to Lausanne, I believe.) Cheap smack! Incredibly graphic sex classifieds in the local daily (“deep anal,” etc.)! Direct democracy by referendum! A series of local languages that don’t even exist in written form, yet dominate the oral culture in cities such as the capital Bern! Regional autonomy so devolved that tiny little cantons can hold back key legislation, such as women’s right to vote (which came after 1970)! Weird, lovely country. Emmanuelle wants to live in Geneva some day; I’m game, though I prefer London.

Have I bored you all yet? Hope not. At any rate, we’ll be back in the U.S.S.A. come Monday, after which regular blogging shall commence. Remember to tune in tomorrow for the mo-blog fest, and check the NatPost on Saturday, though there are no guarantees.

Oh yeah, the Putnam Pit: Geoff Davidian, bless his crazy soul, has been digging up dirt and frothing on about Cookeville, Tennessee for years. I don’t have it in front of me, but that Salon story I wrote, which ends (I believe) in a paranoid-sounding Davidian quote about “people are being killed” … well, a week or two later, the local state senator, whose name now escapes me, was killed, allegedly by the local tax assessor, Byron “Low Tax” Looper, who was, incidentally, a sworn enemy of the local forces Davidian has long claimed are running the town like a fiefdom. When I visited Cookeville not long after Looper’s arrest (he was eventually convicted), I heard the same quote, over and over again, from nearly everyone I talked to. “Looper will be convicted,” they’d say, “even if he’s not guilty.” Now, dude might well be guilty, and I can testify that Davidian is a mad hatter, but that response sent chills down my spine. One hopes that in every town across America, where citizens say with a straight face that the local authorities will convict regardless of evidence, that there’s a dirt-digging renegade like Davidian, challenging the cops and courts and city hall every step of the way.

This Internet stuff’s cheap, folks. We can do whatever the hell we want, within the broad limits of our generous laws. I’m trying to imagine, sitting in my little Autrans hotel room, a French Geoff Davidian, rifling off FOIA requests to the local corrupt mayor, publishing crude comics online, filing endless legal papers for this or that. It’s not so easy. “A big problem here,” one of the friendly participants told me over tasty, straight-out-of-the-barrel Cote-du-Rhone, “is that there is not enough money to start new things.” With much respect to my generous host, I’m happy to come from a country where many wild and wonderful new things start without money, just because people are weird and haven’t been convinced to shut up.

OK, enough of the sermon. Time for another perfect five-course meal, and some of that nice red liquid that keeps the cholesterol healthy. See you in a few days, pals!

01/09/2003 09:59 AM  |  Comment (14)

Hi! What are you doing down here?

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