Bleary-Eyed Unkempt Swedish Me

I’ve arrived in Malmö, Sweden after an overnight flight to Copenhagen. A little bleary-eyed, but none the worse for wear. I’m waiting for the sister of my Airbnb host to get home from work so that I can check in and start the day properly; in the meantime, I’ve secured a Swedish SIM (a Telia, from The Phone House) and am drinking coffee in a shopping mall that could be in Minnesota as equally as it could be here. Shortly I will emerge into the daylight.

Bleary Sweden

Airport Waiting Done Right

When you have a layover at an airport en route to somewhere else, my number one recommendation is to leave the airport.

You need to have enough time to do this — 3 or 4 hours is the minimum.

And somewhere to go.

But there’s almost always somewhere to go. Even if it’s old bridges and free manure. Or a nondescript place to type.

For my 7 hour layover at Pearson Airport in Toronto today I was able to call upon my helpful Ontario family — Mom, Dad and Mike — who generously fetched me from the airport and drove me out to the McMichael Collection in nearby Kleinberg. It was a nice, crisp spring afternoon. We breezed to the gallery in 20 minutes, enjoyed a pleasant lunch in the restaurant in the gallery’s Great Hall, and then spent 90 minutes touring the collection.



I was back at the airport by 5:00 p.m., through security in about 30 minutes, and then faced with another three hours until my flight for Copenhagen departed.

What to do?

It turned out that Pearson’s international jetty supports a ”sit at a table in a comfortable chair, use our iPad for free, and we hope you’ll order some food” model throughout.

I set myself down, plugged in my various devices (each seat has two mains outlets and two USB ports), and ordered up a sandwich and a cup of peppermint tea from the ordering app on the iPad. I didn’t have to talk to anyone (there’s a credit card terminal at every table too). And about 5 minutes later my food arrived. I tapped my laptop into the free airport wifi, and enjoyed a pleasant, if exorbitantly-priced, supper while I surfed the net. 


Which is to say that my number two recommendation when you have a layover — or, indeed, any time to spend at the airport — is to do whatever you can to construct a non-airport-like situation.

Sit at a table, not one of the uncomfortable, stress-inducing lounge chairs.

Plug in some headphones.

Do anything you can to avoid sucking in the anxiety that courses throughout the ether of the airport.

And pay $24 for a mediocre sandwich and a cup of tea. Believe me, it’s worth it.

Flight 882 to Copenhagen leaves in another two hours.

A Sudden Need to Travel

Circumstances have pleasantly conspired to take me to Europe for the next two weeks, something that came together only on Friday last.

Everything has come together so well, so quickly, that I’m prompted to think that I should never plan travel with more than a few days notice (as my friend Igor wrote when I pinged him news of my imminent visit to Berlin, “I like short feedback loops like this”).

So tomorrow morning just before noon I’ll hop on a jet for Toronto where I’ll have a chance to catch up with my parents and my brother Mike before jetting off to Copenhagen (the first time I’ve ever flown direct from Canada to Denmark in the decade I’ve been making the trip; how odd it will be to not be making a bleary-eyed transfer through London or Frankfurt in a catatonic state).

I’ll spend the rest of the week, and the weekend, in Malmö, Sweden, helping to mark the 10th wedding anniversary of our friends Olle and Luisa.

Monday next I’ll fly from Copenhagen down to Berlin. Mostly because I’ve not been to Berlin in three years, and I’ve lots of people to catch up with. Also, it’s Berlin in the spring, and that’s pretty nice all on its own.

After four nights in Berlin I’ll spend the last weekend of my trip in London, where the St. Bride Foundation Wayzgoose is taking place on May 15th, an event (and a facility) I’ve wanted to visit since I started printing letterpress (“home-made cakes and pastries,” to boot).

Because openness and repatriation is the theme of the year, you’ll find my itinerary not on Dopplr, but right here.

Repatriating my Sounds

I posted my first sound to SoundCloud in October 2007, about a month after the service launched. That first track — a bootleg recording of a Garnet Rogers concert at the Trailside in Mount Stewart, has internal track ID of 488; the last track I posted, of Oliver’s birthday greeting to me earlier this month, has a track ID of 257472209, meaning that 257 million tracks have been posted in the intervening 9 years. That’s a lot of sound.

I joined SoundCloud on the strength of having heard co-founders Alexander Ljung and Eric Wahlforss at the reboot conference in Copenhagen; they were interesting polymaths and I reasoned that anything they would launch would be similarly interesting. It didn’t hurt that I was working with Plazes at the time, and Plazes and SoundCloud inhabited the same Berlin neighbourhood, both geographically and spiritually.

And I love sound; I’m a collector of sorts. I’ll record a waterfall here, record a podcast there. SoundCloud was a piece of enabling infrastructure for that: before it was widely possible to post easily-playable sound online, SoundCloud made upload-and-share easy. I’m not exactly, a prolific collector: I’ve only posted 155 sounds of 9 years. But I’m nothing if not a diverse collector: I’ve gathered the sound of my parents cold-room door opening (before they moved house), of a café in Tokyo, music hacks with The Island Hymn, saxophones on Victoria Row, a Bruce Guthro bootleg, and myriad CBC Radio interviews.

When my yearly invoice for SoundCloud Pro Unlimited arrived early this month, though, for $115/year, I decided that it was time to repatriate my sound, to get it out of SoundCloud and into the same Drupal content management system I use to manage everything else I produce online.

A lot has changed since SoundCloud launched: it’s become much easier, via HTML5, to host and serve audio to the browser, and there are lots of JavaScript libraries that make this even easier, libraries that integrate well with Drupal. And SoundCloud itself has evolved, narrowed and professionalized its focus, and entering the same marketplace as Spotify, Google Play and Apple Music. It didn’t feel like the right home for my sound hacking anymore.

So I wrote a script to use the SoundCloud API — always and still one of the greatest features of the site – to pull metadata and media files for all the sounds I’ve uploaded to SoundCloud over the years (what a motley collection these media files were: WAV, MP3, AMR, M4A). I converted all of the audio to MP3 (which is now playable directly in all modern browsers), created a Drupal content type, and imported each sound’s metadata. And so on the end of all the links to sounds above you’ll find their repatriated versions.

There’s a reverse chronological list of all the sounds here, and sounds are also integrated into lists of related posts, like this one for Tokyo, elevating sound from something I stash elsewhere to “first level content,” so to speak.

I wish SoundCloud all the best, and I feel bad about leaving after such a long run; it continues to be the most interesting place for sound, and there’s nothing like sticking a keyword in the search — banjo punk, for example — and letting it role. There’s no better way to let new sound wash over you.

I’ve still got some SoundCloud embeds to update in archival posts around the blog, so there will be a transition period. And I’m not closing my SoundCloud account, just cutting it off at the un-unlimited knees, so links out there will continue to work.

Live From the Formosa Tea House: The Complete Series

Twelve years ago, in the late summer of 2004, Steven Garrity, Dan James and I started a podcast called Live from the Formosa Tea House, recorded very occasionally over lunch at the eponymous Formosa Tea House on Prince Street in Charlottetown. The primary claim to fame of the podcast was that it was among the first of the medium, following quickly on early experiments by Dave Winer and Adam Curry; the entire 6-episode, 7-year run of the podcast happened largely outside the current podcasting resurgence. 

Over the years the various MP3 files of the 6 episodes ended up scattered here and there, the victim of whatever blogging platform was in vogue at the time. I’ve spent the last couple of days consolidating all of the audio I’ve recorded over the years right here on this website, and thus, for the first time, you can listen to all 6 hours in one place. Enjoy.

Episode № Recorded On Audio
One September 8, 2004
Two September 16, 2004
Three January 31, 2005
Four July 13, 2005
Five November 2, 2005
Six June 27, 2011

In An All Night Sitting…”

As the consideration of the estimates in the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island continues today, it’s useful to take a look back 100 years to the day when our MLA ancestors were engaged in exactly the same activity, albeit with considerably more furor and journalistic bluster attached.

Thanks to the PEI Legislative Documents Online project, you can review many of the house records from that 1916 session.

Questioning My Dogma

While tracking down a copy of Living and Learning: The Report of the Provincial Committee on Aims and Objectives of Education in the Schools of Ontario (known popularly as the “Hall-Dennis Report”) yesterday at Robertson Library I found, helpfully catalogued beside it, a copy of Education or Molasses: A critical look at the Hall-Dennis Report.

Given that the former has been at the core both of how I experienced education as a child and how I regard it as an adult, the latter provides me an opportunity to examine some of my deeply-held beliefs in a new light.

It’s a delightfully acerbic read.