Sunday, March 28, 2004

Am I The Last To Know?

This series of Christian books is enormously popular. Did you know about it? I just found out about it. Left Behind.

Kevin Marks, Please Read Me A Bedtime Story

What a terrific voice you have, Kevin! Your British accent is hard to beat. Are all Americans just ga-ga for a British accent, like me?

If you haven't listened to Kevin reading the Preface to Lawrence Lessig's new book FREE CULTURE, you should go listen right now.

Chinese Food

I've been writing very long posts lately and I just wanted to show you I can write a short one. Have some Chinese food today -- I just did -- and it's so darned good.

Scribble

There is a material world, where they keep things like Hot Wheels tiny cars and telephones and loaves of bread and the Post Office and clothing and TV's -- I've seen it, believe me.

And then there is my head -- where I keep all of that stuff, in a "just add water" form -- and a million other things. I am a writer and that means I am very very strange. I have so many things floating around in my head, even a cast of thousands of people who want to talk and talk and talk and tell me things about their lives.

Like this morning. I went to church. Church is in the material world. They have wooden benches there that they call pews and I was sitting on one and then there was a hymn we sang and then I realized I really wanted to write.

I wanted to find out what my lead character had told her sister in San Diego when she visited her the evening after spending the whole of Friday afternoon in bed with her lover -- a well-known Hollywood producer -- very well- known, too well-known and very married. So she drives down the San Diego freeway to see her sister and brother-in-law, but he's not there but their three boys (her nephews) are and they sit on the beach talking watching the boys.

And I knew what her sister was going to tell her. Her sister knew she was dating the married Hollywood producer and didn't like it one bit, she'd known for more than a year, but now it was going even deeper, because the sister's husband for the first time ever, was being unfaithful to her, no one would have ever taken him for the kind of guy that would do such a thing, and it was a big mess and the two sisters really needed to talk.

All this was happening in my head. I was driving down the 405 south -- near the Costa Mesa exit -- in church in Boston in a wooden pew.

That's the problem. I think the material world is highly overrated. When I have to navigate the material world, I find it extremely irksome some days. It's full of so many things you can just bang into and fall over. I'd rather fly like a spirit through walls. It would be so much easier. So right in the middle of the church service, after the hymn and before the collection plate went around, I got up and went to a quiet enclave where no people were, right behind the chapel, in the balcony with after-dinner mint green carpeting, and started scribbling all the details of the San Diego sister visit on the back of the church program and some other pieces of paper I found that were about doing good works by missionaries in Guatemala or something.

I have to figure it's what God had in mind. To put all these people in my brain. How the hell else did they end up there? My character is so upset to hear her brother-in-law is cheating on her sister, she nearly flips, and of course, she suddenly sees her own messing about with the producer in a new way. I still don't know if she's going to dump him. He IS a bad guy and she's too naive to see it yet. But she will.

Going Out Going In

I'm thinking about how much time I'm spending inside, how much out and about, because as the weather changes here in Boston, it's beginning to be almost reasonable to just decide on the spur of the moment to go outside.

Until ... about ... last week, you had to plan most trips with all the accoutrements and considerations of a trip to the South Pole, or you'd lose a finger, a toe or simply your nose to frostbite in the cold we've been having. (Okay, I do exaggerate a bit, but not that much.) As you can imagine, this tends to persuade people to STAY INSIDE.

If you think we're all a little cabin feverish here -- believe me, we are -- how many videos/DVD's can you rent in one winter? I think maybe I've rented a few thousand this winter.

So I've been trying to balance time out and time in. It's tough to balance. You simply have to spend some time inside restoring dirty piles of laundry with clean, folded stuff, filling an empty fridge, getting bills and papers into order, sleeping, or you'll just slam into that "It's Wednesday and I have no clean underwear" problem. There's really nothing worse than a week of work followed by a weekend of being out all the time and not getting your nest in order.

Then there's the matter of writing. It takes a lot of time with no one around, with no interruptions. But that's for another post.

It's Not Unusual To Go Out ...

Going out for a late lunch at 3:00 with a friend. For some reason I've got this Tom Jones song in my head and I'm remembering how he hits the word "out" so sharply in the song. I like Tom Jones.
It's not unusual to be loved by anyone
It's not unusual to have fun with anyone
But when I see you hanging about with anyone
It's not unusual to see me cry,
Oh I wanna' die
It's not unusual to go out at any time
But when I see you out and about it's such a crime
If you should ever want to be loved by anyone,
It's not unusual it happens every day no matter what you say
You find it happens all the time
Love will never do what you want it to
Why can't this crazy love be mine
It's not unusual, to be mad with anyone
It's not unusual, to be sad with anyone
But if I ever find that you've changed at anytime
It's not unusual to find out that I'm in love with you
Whoa - oh - oh - oh - oh

IMHO

Daniel Okrent writes in this morning's New York Times about columnists relationship with facts, in his piece "The Privileges of Opinion, The Obligations of Fact."

He certainly knows which columnists stir the most ire. After a discussion of Krugman and Safire, he mentions Dowd:
... And Maureen Dowd is followed faithfully around the Web by an avenging army of passionate detractors who would probably be devastated if she ever stopped writing.

Coffee, Bagels, Maureen Dowd

Dowd in the Sunday New York Times this morning.
Republicans are demonizing Mr. Clarke, who has accused the administration of negligence on terrorism in the months before 9/11.

Bush officials accuse him of playing fast and loose with facts, even while they still refuse to acknowledge they took us to war by playing fast and loose with facts.

Even after a remarkable week in which a simple apology by Mr. Clarke carried such emotional power, Mr. Bush was still repeating his discredited line on Iraq, as if by rote.

"I made a choice to defend the security of the country," he said Friday, in a speech in Albuquerque, adding: "You can't see what you think is a threat and hope it goes away. You used to could when the oceans protected us. But the lesson of September the 11th is, is when the president sees a threat we must deal with it before it comes to fruition, through death, on our own soils, for example."

Missed The Apprentice

I can't believe I missed the Apprentice on Thursday. What the heck was I doing ... oh yeah, watching a movie with my son. Good choice, way more fun.

Here's what I missed. They went to the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. There were two women and four men left and they fired Katrina. That leaves Amy as the only woman. You could see that coming. She was the strongest woman competitor and every time they had to even up the teams and another team got their pick of the players, they always chose Amy, until last week.

I've been thinking a lot about the way the men will support one another at work (and in life for that matter), even if they don't like one another. Women seem to put personality ahead of that type of gender loyalty often enough. I know I'm generalizing, but this show puts these tendencies under the microscope. If a woman player doesn't like another woman, they don't seem to step back and judge her on her business acumen -- they just get rid of her for "personal" reasons. I think the sociological aspect of this show needs to be considered. Of course, it's phony and bogus in many ways, but it can be an interesting place to consider how we all work at work. I get the feeling men have a loyalty to their gender that's very basic -- and helps them survive in this world. It's a successful worldview if you're a man in a man's world. Is it a man's world? I don't know. I tend to think men are on the decline, really getting kicked around out there. They need to hang together.

Would it be easy for Donald Trump as a man to pick Amy, an obviously beautiful and smart woman, or any woman for that matter, as his apprentice? Will he have a loyalty to a man simply because he's a man? Or is it to avoid the obvious social complications of having a woman as his "right-hand man" and having people wonder if he's sleeping with her. Who -- in fact -- wonders these things? And how do they become obstacles to a woman's progress in business? Sometimes I think there's a "morality of convenience" that is in play. It's convenient to keep women out of the top positions and boardrooms and better for men to do this as it helps them keep other men in those jobs. There have probably been many big bosses sleeping with their male assistants for years, but we'll never hear the tales.

The people who wonder if a pretty female assistant is sleeping with her boss -- those "people" from what I've seen, are usually other men who want to sleep with her. So I'm not altogether convinced is has anything to do with propriety or morals. I think it has to do with jealousy and power. One man being jealous he isn't getting a piece of the action while another is. And men knowing on some fundamental level that they don't want to share power with women. In the guise of "moral and upright" behavior, they can deny women access to power. I sometimes wonder if these male/female dynamics at work are all twisted around that first oh-so-powerful relationship in a man's life -- his mom. I sometimes wonder if men are not terrified of women's power and they know better than women how powerful women can be.

So maybe we can have a little episode next week about Trump and his mother. That would explain volumes. A little intervention by Dr. Phil, for instance, to come in and talk to The Donald about dear old mom. Okay, I'm just kidding. Back to the real story -- who will be the Apprentice?

Can Trump really chose a woman, or is it rigged? Interestingly, the first 4 programs, when the teams were all women against all men, the women won 4 times in a row. The solution -- don't let the show continue to demonstrate how the women were killing the men week after week -- mix up the teams.

I guess we'll all just have to wait and see.

You're Fired

Trump is so nutty and funny and now, this rant that his "You're Fired" sign makes New York a better place to visit and more friendly ... well, he's probably right.

New York -- the place where they say it to your face. In every other town, they just downsize you.

Walking The Winter Woods

Slept soundly thanks to lots of exercise yesterday. Walked through the woods for more than two hours at a fast clip, stepping quickly along the bike path that wanders through my town. The weather was springy, bright then rainy, then bright, didn't know what to expect. Easter colors of yellow sun shards, soft hum of purple crocuses, rumble of grey rain clouds and the promise of a new season.

Torpedo cyclists in black rubber butt shorts, rollerbladers with duck-splayed legs roaring by, babycarriage-pushing mom joggers, walkers chatting with slight Hungarian accents, runners sweating in expensive nylon garb, everyone going by, going by, going by, "to your left" they shout, whiz of wheels, I was often pushed into the muddy shoulders of the path but didn't care much, with my big boots on, no problem, had counted on an extended mud encounter.

Looking up at the stark poles of winter trees, in the highest place, an abandoned nest, sinister like a crazy woman's bun full of sticks, perched in the crotch of branches. These trees have no leaves, no buds, nothing but makedness of bark stretching tall and chopsticky skyward. Wind rattles the poles like lonely masts in an empty harbor. Every 100 yards or so, you might find a spray of ancient dessicated oak leaves -- who knows why they hung on through winter -- bleakly bleached looking more like a carpenters' blond wood carvings than actual leaves that ever lived.

Down on the ground we are thinking S*p*R*i*n*G*!!, oh so confidently, but up on high in a quiet lonely place, the bare grey trees can't reach far enough, hard enough, please, just show us some sun, please, get us out of here, they seem to be yearning and not at all convinced they'll survive the frozen mud patches, even still some snow paddies around their roots, they seem like they'd like to fly into the sky away from this winter wood. They look like the unfortunate fat kids in a gym class, asked to reach high for the pull-up bar and just can't make it, just can't stretch far enough, rooted to the ground, rather hopeless.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Lessig: Exec Summary

I've volunteered to write up a summary of Prof Lessig's new book and record that for the project AKMA has suggested -- audio version of Lessig's new book Free Culture. And executive summary's a bit like "monarch notes" for a book, since it's so tough for people to find the time to read a whole book these days.

Fee Culture

Something brewing. We're talking about doing an audio recording of a bunch of bloggers and cyberfolks reading Lessig's new book aloud and then making a CD out of it.

Here's the link to Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology And The Law To Lock Down Culture And Control Creativity

Fat or Fit?

I've been both and fit is a lot more fun. We'll be on the beach all too soon. Have you thought about biting the bullet this year and getting in really good shape. You can. It's a lot easier than you think. Start by believing you can.

How It Feels Fat

When you get dressed, you go nuts trying to remember which clothes even fit, which are the fat ones, the fatter ones and the fattest ones. No matter what you put on, you look fat and you hate that. You wear dark, drab big clothes to cover all your faults. You hope nothing unbuttons or unzips on you, revealing any flab or flesh. You wish you had something that looked good on you.

When you go anywhere, you know you look not so good in your clothes. You move your body and your skin and curves and muscles follow your movement by a few seconds, like pulling along a sack behind you. When you are naked, you hide under any available covers, blankets, drapes or make sure to turn out the lights. When you have to get up in front of a room of people to speak, you know your body doesn't look good and that makes you that makes you nervous and rocks your confidence, so you make sure NEVER to get up in front of a room of people.

How It Feels Fit

When you get dressed, you throw anything on, because it all fits and it all looks fine and even if it doesn't, you know you look fine underneath it. When you go anywhere, you know you look good in your clothes. You move your body and your skin and curves and muscles move with you. When you are naked, you could stand there discussing baseball scores or anything because you know you look good and your feel confident. When you have to get up in front of a room of people to speak, you know your body looks fit and strong and that cuts your nervousness by about 100% and increases your confidence by about 100%.

Outta Here But See Ya Later

People to see, places to go, house to clean, Saturday errands to run. Bye.

NetFlix

I don't use them. I don't know anyone who works there. I haven't invested in them. So with all those disclosures up front, let me say that I continue to hear total rave reviews of NetFlix. I don't know why people love them so much, but I know people do. Killer word of mouth.

Another Bridget Jones

Looks like they're busy filming another Bridget Jones movie. Go, man, go!!

Great Girl Movie Rental

Hope you have two TV's -- if the guys are going to be glued to basketball today -- go get Pride & Prejudice and check out Colin Firth's action. Oh, baby!

Hoop Day

Now, who was it that told me this weekend is all about hoops ... I remember now.

Tatoo Ta-doo

What's the big ta-doo lately over tatoos? I see them more and more and I can't stand them. I mean, maybe on Popeye's bicep, okay, that's all right. But otherwise I just don't get into them.

Here's another How Things Work entry on how to get rid of tatoos. You mother told you so!

Lessig Is More

AKMA asks us over here to participate in reading Lessig aloud. Happy to help.

How Does It Feel?

Is it a woman thing? Is it a me thing? Rational explanations of how things work leave me cold. Here's a description of diving and surfacing in a submarine. The only interesting part to me is "how does it feel?!" to be in a submarine and suddenly dive or surface. What do you do, hang on for dear life? Do all the submariners (sailors?) get tossed ass-over-tin-cup if the captain decides to take it up fast?

My understanding of the world is all about feeling, not about thinking about feeling.

Life With My Son

In case you wondered whether my kid has an engineer's sensibility (and if you've read my blog for more than a few weeks, you already know I have a 8-year-old mechanical whiz), here's what he asked me at breakfast over pancakes the other morning. This was a school morning. He wants me to give him a detailed answer before the school bus:

"How does a nuclear reactor work? Why do they need to cool down the water inside of it?"

Car Talk: In Case You Needed To Know

A friend who thinks I should know more about car engines, has been tutoring me on how he learned about the piston engine. He tells me there are only four words to remember when it comes to car engines:

SUCK--intake of air and fuel into the cylinder through valves (downstroke)
SQUEEZE--compression of fuel-air mixture (upstroke) valves closed
BANG--combustion of fuel-air mixture (downstroke) with spark plug valves closed
BLOW--burned fuel-air mixture (upstroke) exhausted through open valves

Check out this action-packed graphic.

Honestly, this is exactly the kind of stuff my kid is always asking me about. I should bookmark this.

Get Your Butt In Gear

Less is more. Not about your butt. About exercising. When I write about working out, everyone gets tired just reading about it. I don't mean you have to do some monumental workout routine with machines and weights and marathon-length runs and god knows what else.

I mean -- go for a walk for 45 minutes this morning.

If you're feeling really virtuous, also go for a walk this evening for 45 minutes (after dinner is best).

And now, I'll throw down the big challenge, don't eat anything after 9:00pm.

Those three simple things done every day for a week will make you feel amazingly better.

And the walking doesn't even have to be outside -- you can do it in a mall, anywhere you can keep walking uninterrupted for 45 minutes, it doesn't matter, just do it.

[Actually, now that I reread the beginning of this, "less is more" definately applies to your butt.]

Spring Cleaning Again

Okay, I know I've been tough on you guys, but it's a spring cleaning Saturday again. Make a list like mine and then when it numbers up to 10 items, decide to just do two today. Let's not been TOO hard on ourselves.

1. clean out papers in back office;
2. take too small kid clothes to Goodwill;
3. kitchen -- get rid rid of too many kitschy coffee mugs
4. closet -- fact facts, dump too small duds and dumb looking unfashions
5. bathroom -- clean junky drawer of old 1/2 empty cosmetics bottles and jars
6. take winter coats to cleaners
7. pump up air in bike tires
8. weigh yourself -- look at yourself in bikini in mirror -- think beach
9. take big winter blankets and comforters to wash at giant washer laundromat across town
10. newspaper and magazine clean-out in bathroom, bedroom, office.

I'm going to do number 2 and number 6. I'm great. Hurray for me.

I Suck As An Avon Lady

So I signed up to be an Avon Lady but this local manager lady and I just don't seem to see eye-to-eye or eye liner pencil-to-eye liner pencil or something.

First she sends me an email with about 500 lines of dates and information and contests and bonuses and stuff -- with no paragraphs. It was unreadable. And this was the first email I ever got from her after having been signed up almost a month. She actually likes to leave phone messages. I don't do phone messages. I do email. I do email that is intelligible and readable. I hate people who do phone. I don't do phone for precise information, or for anything that includes real data like numbers, prices, colors of nail polish. I need email. I like a written record.

She has an email address like spam -- something like JoLo3428789 or something -- and I nearly deleted it, because it obviously didn't come from a human and then I realized it was from her, and then I opened it, but as I mentioned, it was a swirl of stuff I couldn't decipher.

And then I found a friend who actually wanted to be a customer.

She wanted to buy some nail polish.

The catalogue has a veritable beauty supply shelf full of different kinds and colors of nail polishes.

My friend asked me, "Which one lasts the longest?" that's all she wanted to know.

I decided to email the manager lady, figuring this must be her forte -- she can actually answer product questions for me and help me I thought naively. I wrote "Which nail polish lasts the longest?"

She didn't answer.

I realized I had to call her -- use the phone -- something I consider a gigantic waste of time.

I left her a message, "Which nail polish lasts the longest?"

She wasn't there.

She called back quickly and told me, "I don't know which one lasts the longest, but why don't you sell her ...." and then she told me to sell her something else. And then she went into a rant about how I hadn't placed an order this two-week period and I had to place an order and didn't I want her to send me a bunch of new catalogues for $50 dollars out of my pocket and I needed to at least place an order myself for cosmetics because I had to buy some stuff to make sure her region met their goals ... and on and on and on. It was all about what she needed.

I only needed to know, "which nail polish lasts the the longest?"

She wouldn't tell me. This must be secret information.

I told my friend, "the manager won't tell me which nail polish lasts the longest. You might want to buy some at the drug store. I don't want to sell you the wrong stuff."

Friday, March 26, 2004

Every Day I Write The Book

Always loved that song of Elvis Costello's.

Get Away Faster

I see a banner ad at the top of my email today, since I use Yahoo email, I see a lot of ads. This one has a sapphire blue ocean, a bright white sandy beach, a red and white striped beach umbrella, a sunny yellow feeling, though it might not have a crayon yellow ball of sun that I notice, but I get the beachy feeling -- it sweeps over me -- I may need to look down between my toes to check for sand. It says "Get Away Faster" and it says something else about getting 10,000 frequent flyer miles as a bonus, or some such thing.

What are they selling? Unspoiled nature and worry-free days for sale. That's what it's really about, which makes me know that it assumes, rightly, that we are far from a beach on this cold spring morning and far from worry.

Frequent flyer miles hardly seem the remedy for a morning like this, and I'm still stuck on the beginning of the phrase -- Get Away Faster. It means "Run For Your Life" or maybe "Run Away From Your Life" and so you can't help wondering what kind of life we've all made for ourselves that running away from it at breakneck speed is a sound philosophy that most people reading the ad would not only be willing to agree with, but be moved, if not seduced into a bit of a early morning coffee break swoon to consider it.

What else are they selling? Sex of course and a way to escape your life. The two go hand-in-hand.

So you are Jane or Joe, sitting in your company cafeteria, a scatter of cheesy plastic furniture around you and a vending machine against the wall of equally polyurethane food on little shelves next to you, but your mind is filled with this abandoned beach scene, the beach umbrella tilted in a sexy way, away from you, the viewer. And you are left wondering what's going on behind the umbrella. You can't help but wonder.

You're wearing clothes that didn't really come out of the dryer wrinkle free, in fact, you look a little sloopy. You're watching an icy rain storm hit the not so shiny cars out on the company parking lot. The cars all look grey and a little dinged up. You're thinking of an 11:00 meeting where that egomaniacial tyrant in Marketing is really just rounding you all up to tell you you're a bunch of assholes and can never get anything done on time or to his liking. The heel on your right shoe is in need of repair and you have a sad place inside that you contemplate for a few seconds -- why it is you always scrape your right heel like that in a shameful, "don't hurt me, I didn't do it!", babyish way. If you dare to go there, you wonder, "Did my mother do that to me, make me feel that shitty about myself that I still scrape my foot like that when I've done something wrong?"

If you are Joe, behind the umbrella, there is a model, you can't remember her name but she's topless and getting pretty impatient with you for not staying with her and making love to her and instead you have to go to some idiotic meeting at 11:00. She doesn't get it and is not willing to let you go. You yield to her finally and it's delicious. No one else in the cafeteria is begging you to let her give you a blow job, last you noticed.

If you are Jane, behind the umbrella, there is a model, you can't remember his name and he's been very romantic all morning, and teasing your clothes off you, making love to you, very skillfully, you've come twice -- no explaining or pointing out any anatomical roadmap thank you -- he's really good -- you knew he would be, since he doesn't speak English anyway, that was a tip off. And then he wants to take you shopping in town, ride you around on his motorbike and buy you stuff. He doesn't know what the hell an 11:00 meeting is.

STOP ... I'd like the audio of someone tearing an old record player needle across an old Hawaiian hula dance LP to stop the music, but that's so passe, a record player, sorry ... anyway, stop the fantasy for a second and think to yourself, "Wait a minute, maybe I could get out of here, really get out of here, maybe I could make a life I liked and not have to get away faster. Maybe I could have a life I liked so much I wouldn't ever want to run away from it." Now you are really getting away. Now you're thinking straight. Straight out of there in a few months, into a life that might be real and fun and really fun. Some people do it, you know that. There must be a way to find out how they pull it off. And you think of that uncle of yours. Everyone thought he was half nuts, but he had a life that guy, he had a wonderful life and you decide right then and there ... you'll figure out how he did it and you'll do it too.

Worth Your While

So excited about the WORTHWHILE Launch. We're live the first Monday in April. You didn't think we were so dumb as to launch on April Fool's Day, did you?

A shiny new blog and new magazine all about work that really matters -- profits passion and personalities.

Fine blog writing from me, David Batstone, Catherine Fredman, Tom Peters, Rebecca Ryan, Kevin Salwen, Anita Sharpe, David Weinberger.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Dick Clarke's American Bandstand

A week ago most of us didn't know who Richard Clarke was and this week he seems to be changing the course of American History.

The emotional apology by Clarke and total absence of Condoleezza Rice and everyone else at the top of the Bush White House at the 9/11 commission hearings sends strong messages.


Clarke, whose credibility has been questioned by the Bush administration, began his testimony on Wednesday to a commission probing the attacks by asking for relatives' forgiveness, prompting cheers, gasps and sobs from the packed hearing room on Capitol Hill.

"It's the first time we have had a public apology by any of the officials that were in office on that terrible morning," said Patty Casazza, who lost her husband when a hijacked plane rammed into the World Trade Center in New York.

"An apology goes a long way to healing the wounds and moving forward," Casazza told ABC's "Good Morning America" program.

Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon (news - web sites). Relatives of those killed have been pushing for answers and some have voiced criticism over the Bush administration's cooperation with the commission.

Clarke, who served the last four U.S. presidents, has incensed the White House by saying publicly and in a book published this week that President Bush (news - web sites) did not take the terrorism threat seriously enough and that more could have been done to prevent the attacks.

Clarke, who resigned 13 months ago, said the Clinton administration was active in tracking Osama bin Laden (news - web sites)'s al Qaeda network but the Bush administration, which took office in January 2001, did not consider the issue urgent.

EMOTIONAL MOMENT

In his testimony, Clarke turned around to directly face the relatives and said: "Those entrusted with protecting you, failed you. And I failed you. We tried hard but that doesn't matter because we failed."

He added: "I would ask, once all the facts are out, for your understanding and for your forgiveness."

Beverly Eckert, whose husband died in the World Trade Center, said she "totally broke down" at Clarke's apology.

"It was a very emotional moment. As Patty said, no one has ever apologized. Most of the witnesses who come to these hearings come with, I would categorize them, as rather self-serving statements and everything they tried to do.

"He's the only one who said we tried our best but we failed ... not only did he apologize, he asked for our forgiveness. That meant a lot," said Eckert, who along with Casazza is part of an activist family group demanding answers to how the Sept. 11 attacks occurred.

--Reuters via Yahoo News

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Anvil

I was thinking about death the other day, having trouble finding the words to write about how vibrant a life at full throttle can be, and then just end so quickly.

Luckily, a wonderful writer I know put it exactly the right way.
You see how fragile life is, despite being so robust. How quickly and unexpectedly it's over. The trajectory arches up like a rainbow... and falls like an anvil off a cliff. One must remember to live.

--John Perry Barlow
Unluckily, his fine writing was due to the loss of his roommate and friend Tony Meilandt.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Conference Blogging

I'm trying to decide what I think about bloggers covering conferences, especially as David Weinberger and many others are at Esther Dyson's PC Forum event in Arizona this week.

I'm not there, but at home, though I am often at conferences like these, so the shoe is on the other foot for once.

Here's some ideas.

1. Does any one really need real time conference coverage?

2. I find real time coverage of a conference is more interesting to other bloggers who happen to be attending the conference and have a sense of the "context" and place itself.

3. I find the coverage is useful when I happen to run into it later on Google and I'm researching a specific subject and it happens to fall into that area.

4. I miss the conference bloggers regular writing and I would venture to say their conference blogging is almost always less interesting than their regular writing, unless there is just spectacular earth-shattering news happening at the conference.



How Court TV Stays In Business

Sometimes, you read things you wish you could invent as a fiction writer, but you know that no one in the whole wide world would believe them.

Start with a mansion in the Hamptons in Long Island, then take a millionaire husband and his wife in a bitter divorce, add an handsome young electrician who installed the security system for the mansion, find the husband brutally murdered a few days before the divorce is final. Add a wedding -- you guessed it, the electrician marries the widow -- add a Russian nanny, well ... you read it.

How's a fiction writer supposed to compete with stuff like this! There oughta be a law!

Monday, March 22, 2004

Eat, Don't Drink And Be Merry

Renewed my vows over at the blog Joi Ito started called "We Quit Drinking." Go check it out. And "BRAVO!" to Joi who still isn't drinking.

Two Can Play At This Game -- Blueblood or Blue-Collar?

They just planted a piece about John Kerry's $33 million worth of homes. Now how many homes do the Bushes own and what's the rent on that joint at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue anyway? Last I checked they had property in Greenwich, Connecticut, Jupiter Island, Florida, Kennebunkport, Maine, and Crawford, Texas. I've got to verify that, I might be wrong. But that's the best part of the game. When you play BLUEBLOOD OR BLUE-COLLAR from Rove Gaming Industries, you needn't be constrained by telling the truth! You can make up anything you like!

This is a game called BLUE BLOOD OR BLUE COLLAR -- and Bush thinks he can win it with a bio like this! There is nothing blue-collar about Bush. Believe me, I know, since he grew up mostly in my town Greenwich, Connecticut and the Texas thing is just a nice photo op background that helps him keep his "good ol boy" image in play.



A Matter of Style

I threw out a challenge to a friend of mine who blogs really wonderful LONG posts every few weeks. I asked him to post EVERY DAY THIS WEEK with blog posts no longer than ONE PARAGRAPH. I really don't think he can pull it off.

It was just a way to open up a discussion of how ENTRENCHED we are in our particular blogging styles. The way we blog is as much part of our "brand" as WHAT we blog about.

So here are some equally insane things you'll probably never see on some well known blogs:

-- Scoble starts blogging 3-page posts every three weeks and nothing in between;

-- Instapundit relocates to Manhattan and stops writing about law and politics, focuses solely on hip hop;

-- Jeneane stops writing about her family and friends, attends nothing but conferences and posts detailed minutes of every BrainyCon, all the latest A List blogger sightings and arcane discussions of telephony practices;

-- Rageboy goes all text/no graphics;

-- Shelley gets married, starts blogging only recipes and occasional sexy stories about how much she adores her new alpha male husband and stops writing about technology;

-- Doc blogs no headlines (agh! that even scares me -- please Doc, don't ever do that, I love your headlines);

-- Dan Gillmor starts a blog for Vogue Magazine, forcing him to use the word "wireless" only in the context of women's brassieres;

-- Jarvis stops blogging (yikes! don't ever do that!);

-- Joi Ito stops travelling, moves to Cleveland, opens a gas station and blogs about the people who cruise in for gas and windshield wiper fluid.

-- Winer goes to MIT to blog;

-- Weinberger closes down Joho and starts blogging for Disney under the stealth identity "The Nutty Professor" on subjects like The Flubber Echo Chamber;

-- AKMA starts a new blog called Oy Vey, recounting his conversion to the Jewish faith;

-- I start posting late at night, never early in the morning, about the merits of celibacy, my fascination with World War I aviation trends and the future of Linux.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Good To Be Google

And here's the Newsweek article: "Let's face it—it's good to be Google. Every minute, worldwide, in 90 languages, the index of this Internet-based search engine created by these Stanford doctoral dropouts is probed more than 138,000 times. In the course of a day, that's over 200 million searches of 6 billion Web pages, images and discussion-group postings."

Google Newsweek Cover

What's with the 3D glasses guys? Kinda weird.

Gays Non-Issue For Republicans

Ends up Mary Cheney, the vice president's openly gay lesbian daughter thinks the Republicans will come around to embracing gays.

Here's a quote from her:
"Working together, we can expand the Republican Party's outreach to nontraditional Republicans," she said in the statement. "We can make sexual orientation a nonissue for the Republican Party and we can help achieve equality for all gay and lesbian Americans."
Why do I get the feeling this probably won't happen.

Hmmm, just a hunch.

Thank Goodness Dick Cheney Supports Gays

Glad to know Dick Cheney is cool with gays and gay marriage I figure. It only makes sense, what with his daughter Mary Cheney being opening gay.

Or maybe I've got a few of the facts mixed up here. Better check on them.

Bush's Brilliant Web Strategists

Do any of the links on this site work, or did I miss something? Mary Matalin's site says "full site coming in October 2003" but I'm not holding my breath.

And then there's this about Karl Rove -- our favorite election terrorist -- willing to make up anything, launch any bomb, assassinate anyone's character. Why doesn't he have a blog? Roveblog would be very cool.

Email Hemail Shemail Things I Hate

When email was brand new technology, reasonable people wrote articles about net etiquette to get newbies on the same page with them when it came to "best practices" for writing and using email. Today I was thinking about how people still write perfectly impossible email and don't use it the right way, even now that it's so common. I have a few pet peeves about email and I wish everyone shared them, so we could all work on stamping them out.

1. Please don't ask me 5 questions in one email, please send me 5 emails with one question in each. Is that nutty? You'll have a much better chance that I might answer 4 right away and eventually answer the 5th which might require some thought or research. If you glob a million things into one email and one is in need of reflection -- I don't answer the message, thereby not answering ANY of the 5 points.

2. Please don't assume I remember the name of your husband (Tom), your son (Tommy), your dog (Tomahawk), your goldfish (Tom-Tom), and feel free to say "My son Tommy killed his goldfish Tom-Tom yesterday!" instead of "Tommy killed Tom-Tom yesterday!" and I have to ask "YOUR SON KILLED HIS DAD?"

3. Please don't assume I remember who the hell you are or where the hell we met -- or that I'll mind if you decide to describe it in detail -- PLEASE DO, especially if you have a common name. I hate it when I get an email that says, "Hi, it's me Dave, I love what you said about Alpha Males." Dave who? And I said something where? In my blog, in person, at a reading, in a magazine??? And what did I say? Try this instead, "Hi, I'm Dave, Stephanie's friend -- remember we met briefly at that bar in Cambridge called NOIR, during the blizzard on Valentine's Day weekend. I loved it when you told Stephanie she needed to let an Alpha Male kiss her any way and any WHERE he wanted."

4. And my most peeving pet peeve of all email traditions. The frigging email arrives from Mr. and Mrs. Jones -- this is due to free email accounts married people get with cable modem and DSL packages -- and I don't know if the email is from MR OR MRS JONES?!?! What, email is just so hard to get, you can't afford to have YOUR OWN EMAIL? I read two things into this -- both of which I can tell you are loathsome to consider and makes me want to dump both people as potential friends. By sharing conjugal email are you telling me "We are so bonded to one another and so psychologically healthy we speak with one voice and keep no secrets?!" Yeah, right, sure. This attitude I call Marital Macho -- "We're so married and you're so not!" Or worse, "We're so emeshed I can't imagine doing anything without my spouse glued to my hip." Get your own email, lovebirds -- if you ever want me to answer it. It's like sharing one another's panties ... pretty spooky shit ... but then again, maybe you do that in your marriage? Please don't even tell me, MR. AND MRS. JONES, I don't want to know the details!

5. Then there's my favorite "Mr. Memorandum" whose emails don't even get started without 6 paragraphs for setting the scene. Add about 17 more paragraphs to air his opinion and closing arguements add the requisite 5 more paragraphs. An email is SHORT, SWEET and TO THE POINT. And life, like email, is short too -- anyone mention that to you ever?

6. And God save us from the long-winded emailer who is unfamiliar with THE CARRIAGE RETURN. Yes, you've all seen these emails -- they are one long run-on gob of text. Never a break, never a paragraph, just on and on and on for the whole page. Try a little white space ... PLEASE?!

7. And then there are those clever email addresses like DADDYSDARLING@aol.com or LEADERSHIPMAN@yahoo.com or D4T4CODERGIRL@verizon.com and they don't include the person's real name and you end up having to reply, "Hi, Leadershipman" (read: moron) instead of knowing what the person's actual name is.

Okay, is it just me, or do you run into these things and want to vomit too?

Prodigal Son and Riotous Living

The sermon at church today was about the prodigal son today. Really fun to see it acted out by the youth group all decked out in sexy bad boy leather jackets and carrying boom boxes down the church aisle.

The older well-behaved son asking the dad, "what do you mean, you're throwing HIM a big party after he's been away wasting all your money and getting into trouble. Why do I even bother being good?!?"

The younger son, "Hey, Daddy-o, I'm home! Let's party!"

It's not about a wild party guy cruising back into town and always getting off the hook, as some of the older son-types would have you think. It's about God's forgiveness and extravagant love always being there for you. You can screw up big time and still be taken back.

But I've always found the basic truth of the story compelling as it exists in real life. The real-life stories of really bad guys being the life of the party, breaking hearts, not paying off their debts, dropping the ball at times of committment or responsibility and STILL being welcomed back into the inner circle is everywhere you look. There's just something more fun about that story. Maybe the prodigal son makes us feel simultaneously holier-than-him AND ultimately forgiveable, no matter how bad we might be. If that's the God who runs this Disneyland, we know we're in for a fun ride.

Asian Women Who Kick Anime Ass

Watching the fight scene from MULAN. Great movie. The girl soldier sends her big brute of an enemy flying off the roof with an ancient Chinese dragon rocket in his belly. Don't mess with Mulan boys! Also, how can you lose with Eddie Murphy as her tiny dragon lizard sidekick?!

Here's what Roger Ebert wrote at the time it came out in 1998:
The visual style breaks slightly with the look of modern Disney animation to draw from Chinese and Japanese classical cartoon art; in the depiction of nature, there's an echo of the master artist Hiroshige. In a scene where the Hun troops sweep down the side of a snowy mountain, I was reminded of the great battle sequence in Sergei Eisenstein's ``Alexander Nevsky.'' There are scenes here where the Disney artists seem aware of the important new work being done in Japanese anime; if American animation is ever going to win an audience beyond the family market, it will have to move in this direction, becoming more experimental both in stories and visual style.

Animation often finds a direct line to my imagination: It's pure story, character, movement and form, without the distractions of reality or the biographical baggage of the actors. I found myself really enjoying ``Mulan,'' as a story and as animated art. If the songs were only more memorable, I'd give it four stars, but they seemed pleasant rather than rousing, and I wasn't humming anything on the way out. Still, ``Mulan'' is an impressive achievement, with a story and treatment ranking with ``Beauty and the Beast'' and ``The Lion King.''

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Comments On Comments

Glenn Fleishman wrote this little GEM in Jeff Jarvis' comments over at BuzzMachine. Wow! He was reacting to a long thread from this post where there were some contentious comments posted.

If you're new to reading blogs -- this will prove to be the "Dummy's Guide to Blog Comments" and quite eludicating. If you're not new to blogs, you'll want to give Glenn a nice big hug and a kiss next time you see him. Hosannah!

He also deals quickly with the good reasons many of us don't bother to have comments on our sites.

This was an interesting thread because it shows the best and worst aspects of commenting. I typically see seven kinds of comments on my blogs:

1. Intelligent, germane remarks, which may be supportive or critical of what I have posted or, if a link, to the story in question.

2. Expansive remarks that provide more detail about the subject in question, often from the principals (cf. Mena, above)

3. Discussions that form in the comments section that are germane and useful to the discussion at hand (everyone in this thread)

4. Off-topic remarks or poorly written remarks that don't extend and expand on the comment.

5. Ad hominem attacks, rudeness, stupidity. (These posters always claim, when confronted, to not be exhibiting this behavior; viz., above.)

6. People who don't understand that the comments are for specific articles and post totally weird things, like requests to order books or sell stuff.

7. Comment spam.

Categories 4 to 7 led me to turn off comments altogether on my blogs until a better solution existed. This includes wifnetnews.com, which often generates a large number of good posts in the 1 through 3 category, even when they're totally critical of my point of view (but not rude or attacking the site).

The biggest problem I've found is category 4. People who cannot recognize their own tone are often wily enough to be able to register, enter obscured text, confirm their email address -- these are the folks that moderation solves the problem of.

I really want an integrated system that requires verification of a post (so the TypeKey solution provides me a mechanism of verification) and moderation of a post (so that I as a site operator can choose whether a post is in categories 1 to 3 or 4 to 7).

I've run mailing lists for years, and when I was running the Internet Marketing discussion list back in 1994-1996 (Jeff Bezos and many other folks who were evolving companies were members), I ran it moderated. I would have problems with posters every few weeks in which someone wanted to post every damn thing they thought of. I would reject, and sometimes explain.

These folks would scream bloody murder at me. Fine, I would reply. If you want an unmoderated forum, then you should create one. I will even link to it and promote it as a forum in which moderation isn't the key. And you know what happened: a couple people started an unmoderated forum and it devolved into useless nonsense and spam within a couple of months.

Meanwhile, my list grew from 1,000 in the first week (in 1994) to 7,000 by 1996 when I shut it down because the conversation had become tedious and useless. I did promote some new lists that formed, none of which lasted longer than a few years themselves.

The point (I've meandered) is that moderation is a good thing and validation of an identity is good thing *for the people running sites*. They may not be the best thing for people who want to post comments. In which case, the way the blogosphere works is that you post comments on your own blog, and TrackBack, Google, RSS readers, and other tools link your ideas to the offending post.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at March 20, 2004 03:41 PM

Give Me A Break

Interesting Business Week story about the head of ad agency Young & Rubicam, Ann Fudge. Here's the link via Yahoo News. Notice that most of the criticism of her leadership style hinges on the fact that she was SANE ENOUGH to take a break and do a sabbatical of a few years. And it was between jobs, not even while she was at Y & R, so I find it incredible that anyone has the nerve to criticize her taking time off at all -- what business is it of theirs?

Well, I'll tell you. They're making it their business. It's a backlash against women executives I think. It's part of a wave of women changing the corporate workplace and a lot of senior male executives do NOT like women rewriting the rules. Rewriting the rules and winning by those new rules.

From a male point of view I can understand they feel they've been killing themselves all these years, why should women waltz in and get top jobs without the same sacrifice. But GUYS, don't you hear what I'm saying -- you've been killing yourselves, LITERALLY -- and we don't want you to! We want you all to stay alive, stay with us, work with us, have fun with us and take a page from our book of life balance. Men need the changes women are bringing to the workplace even more than women!
A surprising number doubt -- quietly for now, anyway -- that a woman who openly hugs fellow execs and values her life beyond the workplace can raise Y&R to new creative and financial heights. As one senior executive puts it: "I just don't know if someone who can spend months on a bicycle has the 24/7 drive we need." Even outsiders wonder about the fire in her belly. "Does Y&R need a General Patton or a well-rounded, solid business leader?" ponders veteran consultant Richard Roth, whose firm helps clients find the right ad agency. "Ann certainly represents the latter." Fudge laughs off the innuendo. "I really love doing things differently from the norm," she says.

Going To The Chapel

Get a load of this AP wire story about why Bush is having trouble with the Marriage Initiative -- it's all the fault of that pesky New York Times.
"We are conservatives -- we do believe that government ought to be limited," Wade Horn, assistant Health and Human Services (news - web sites) secretary for children and families, said in a telephone interview.

"But healthy marriages are good for children, good for adults, good for communities. When something can be shown to be a social good, government should not be neutral."

Horn said he has been striving for the past two months to disentangle the marriage initiative from the gay-marriage debate. He traced the entanglement to articles in the New York Times in mid-January that -- in his eyes -- gave the impression Bush's marriage plan was a new, election-year initiative aimed at placating conservatives upset by gay-marriage developments.


Walk In The Woods

Had a nice walk in the woods today with my kid. I love to borrow his eyes for a few hours and see things the way he does. We walk, we talk about nothing, he points stuff out. I love to see his world. It's a beautiful, funny, unexpected place, full of excitement and new ideas. Being "king of the hill" on the top of tall piles of old snow is especially fun. You stand higher than the low branches of a tall tree.

Also dropping big gobs of pure white snow into grey slush puddles and watching the white snow turn grey, sucking up the dirty water just like a ball of snowcone ice sucks up blue raspberry syrup he explains. We did that for a long time -- very entertaining.

Nestful Of Little Blue Robin's Eggs

Anything to push spring into arriving. My kid and I are eating a nestful of little blue robin's eggs. That is, we're eating a nestful of little blue robin's egg malted milk balls. Very delish. These are cute too.

My Ass Deservedly Kicked

So Joe Territo over here, is kicking my ass about writing that holier-than-thou blog post this morning about how I get up at 5:00am, work out and write by 7:00am on a Saturday all because I'm not drinking. What a stupid Miss Goody 2-Shoes I sounded like, he's right. If he could see what a lazy bum I can be most of the time.

Thanks for the blog post, Joe.

Congrats To Esther

CNET's bought Edventure -- Esther Dyson's company -- which is very cool. Congratulations.

We all hope this means she'll have more time to be brainy and hang out with all of us and blog, but we all suspect, au contraire, she'll only be busier.

It's A Blog World After All

Fast Company's Jena McGregor did a cool piece on blogging this month. It features our number one pal, Robert Scoble. I'm quoted in it too, although I must say, I sound like a high school cheerleader who's barely mastered English. Well, I guess I was channelling my inner and outer valley girl the day Jena interviewed me.
Corporate America is jumping onto the blogwagon for many of the same reasons all those journalists, brooding teenagers, and presidential campaigners are already on board. Unlike email and instant messaging, blogs let employees post comments that can be seen by many and mined for information at a later date, and internal blogs aren't overwhelmed by spam. And unlike most corporate intranets, they're a bottoms-up approach to communication. "With blogs, you gain more, you hear more, you understand where things are going more," says Halley Suitt, who wrote a fictional case study on corporations and blogging for the Harvard Business Review. "Even better, you understand them faster."
I guess what I meant to say is that blogs let you feel the pulse of a market very early on and sense the way trends are developing and where they are headed. You can't afford to ignore blogs anymore.

Thanks so much for the mention, Jena. And yes, Scoble, you are a powerful dude!

Sullivan Says

Andrew Sullivan has an interesting piece today about the Medicare prescription drug program.
Imagine for a moment that there is a Democratic administration in the White House. Now imagine that at a time of soaring deficits and a looming social security crisis, the president endorses a huge new entitlement program for seniors, designed purely for electoral purposes. Now imagine that he deliberately low-balls the costs of this program, to the tune of something like 30 percent. Would Republicans be outraged? You bet they would. Now imagine that the official designated to provide accurate costing figures was told that if he released the real numbers, he would be fired. Now stop imagining. It appears that all this occurred in the Bush administration over the Medicare prescription drug program.

Bush's Bait And Switch

Arlie Hotchschild of UC Berkeley has written an interesting piece about why blue-collar men are voting for Bush and have the most to lose at his hands. In this interview, she comments on this ironic situation. When she looks at those who say they will vote for Bush she says:
The surprise is that the people most hurt by Bush's policies are his strongest supporters. We know that there have been 2.5 million jobs lost in his presidency. He's kind of got a "bleed 'em dry" approach to the non-Pentagon part of government spending. He's not doing anything to help blue-collar workers learn new trades, or get a house, or help their kids go to college. He's loosening the Occupation Health and Safety regulations. The plants the guys work at are less safe. His agricultural policies are putting small farmers out of business. So we have to ask: why would they vote Republican?
And some more directly from her essay, Let Them Eat War:
For anyone who stakes his pride on earning an honest day's pay, this economic fall is, unsurprisingly enough, hard to bear. How, then, do these blue-collar men feel about it? Ed Landry said he felt "numb." Others are anxious, humiliated and, as who wouldn't be, fearful. But in cultural terms, Nascar Dad isn't supposed to feel afraid. What he can feel though is angry. As Susan Faludi has described so well in her book Stiffed, that is what many such men feel. As a friend who works in a Maine lumber mill among blue-collar Republicans explained about his co-workers, "They felt that everyone else – women, kids, minorities – were all moving up, and they felt like they were moving down. Even the spotted owl seemed like it was on its way up, while he and his job, were on the way down. And he's angry."

But is that anger directed downward – at "welfare cheats," women, gays, blacks, and immigrants – or is it aimed up at job exporters and rich tax dodgers? Or out at alien enemies? The answer is likely to depend on the political turn of the screw. The Republicans are clearly doing all they can to aim that anger down or out, but in any case away from the rich beneficiaries of Bush's tax cut. Unhinging the personal from the political, playing on identity politics, Republican strategists have offered the blue-collar voter a Faustian bargain: We'll lift your self-respect by putting down women, minorities, immigrants, even those spotted owls. We'll honor the manly fortitude you've shown in taking bad news. But (and this is implicit) don't ask us to do anything to change that bad news. Instead of Marie Antoinette's "let them eat cake," we have – and this is Bush's twist on the old Nixonian strategy – "let them eat war."

Paired with this is an aggressive right-wing attempt to mobilize blue-collar fear, resentment and a sense of being lost – and attach it to the fear of American vulnerability, American loss. By doing so, Bush aims to win the blue-collar man's identification with big business, empire, and himself. The resentment anyone might feel at the personnel officer who didn't have the courtesy to call him back and tell him he didn't have the job, Bush now redirects toward the target of Osama bin Laden, and when we can't find him, Saddam Hussein and when we can't find him... And these enemies are now so intimate that we see them close up on the small screen in our bedrooms and call them by their first names.

... Whether strutting across a flight deck or mocking the enemy, Bush with his seemingly fearless bravado – ironically born of class entitlement – offers an aura of confidence. And this confidence dampens, even if temporarily, the feelings of insecurity and fear exacerbated by virtually every major domestic and foreign policy initiative of the Bush administration. Maybe it comes down to this: George W. Bush is deregulating American global capitalism with one hand while regulating the feelings it produces with the other. Or, to put it another way, he is doing nothing to change the causes of fear and everything to channel the feeling and expression of it. He speaks to a working man's lost pride and his fear of the future by offering an image of fearlessness. He poses here in his union jacket, there in his pilot's jumpsuit, taunting the Iraqis to "bring ‘em on" – all of it meant to feed something in the heart of a frightened man. In this light, even Bush's "bad boy" past is a plus. He steals a wreath off a Macy's door for his Yale fraternity and careens around drunk in Daddy's car. But in the politics of anger and fear, the Republican politics of feelings, this is a plus.

There is a paradox here. While Nixon was born into a lower-middle-class family, his distrustful personality ensured that his embrace of the blue-collar voter would prove to be wary and distrustful. Paradoxically, Bush, who was born to wealth, seems really to like being the top gun talking to "regular guys." In this way, Bush adds to Nixon's strategy his lone-ranger machismo.

More important, Nixon came into power already saddled with an unpopular war. Bush has taken a single horrific set of attacks on September 11, 2001 and mobilized his supporters and their feelings around them. Unlike Nixon, Bush created his own war, declared it ongoing but triumphant, and fed it to his potential supporters. His policy – and this his political advisor Karl Rove has carefully calibrated – is something like the old bait-and-switch. He continues to take the steaks out of the blue-collar refrigerator and to declare instead, "let them eat war." He has been, in effect, strip-mining the emotional responses of blue-collar men to the problems his own administration is so intent on causing.

But there is a chance this won't work. For one thing, the war may turn out to have been a bad idea, Bush's equivalent of a runaway plant. For another thing, working men may smell a skunk. Many of them may resent those they think have emerged from the pack behind them and are now getting ahead, and they may fear for their future. But they may also come to question whether they've been offered Osama bin Laden as a stand-in for the many unfixed problems they face. They may wonder whether their own emotions aren't just one more natural resource the Republicans are exploiting for their profit. What we urgently need now, of course, is a presidential candidate who addresses the root causes of blue-collar anger and fear and who actually tackles the problems before us all, instead of pandering to the emotions bad times evoke.


Storage Unit

Dervala, as usual, is up to interesting things and even more interesting ways of writing about her life than any of the rest of us. She visits a storage unit where she stowed all her old clothes and things from when she was a dotcom hottie in New York before her world wide wanderlust hit. Interesting to hear her reactions to her old high-heeled city duds when we usually imagine her dressed down in a simple Lara Croft safari suit, cutting through jungles as she brandishes her machete :
Later, after work every evening, I unpacked boxes, littering the small apartment. My clothes smelled musty. I could hardly believe I owned so many pairs of knickers. I marvelled at my trousers, at all these skirts. I kept finding lipstick, bottles of Clarins Eau Dynamisante, expensive moisturisers. High heels. Hairdryers. It was like unwrapping cast-off presents from a glamorous older sister who didn’t know me as well as I wished she did.

Ten Years Out

The post I did about what we'll be doing ten years from now ("Eyes On The Prize") seems to have taken on a life of its own. I'm find it resonating throughout my days, not leaving my attention since I wrote it earlier this week. It keeps coming up.

I talked to my friends last night about it -- what we all want in the next ten years -- all of us thought about how important OUR HEALTH is and reflected on how one small injury, say to your back for instance, can mess you up royally and affect many other parts of your life in a negative way. We all wished one another continued good health and keep returning to how important some kind of exercise is.

Even on the mornings I do a very simple yoga videotape exercise routine -- not very challenging, just a way to keep your "hand in the game" so to speak -- I'm realizing there's a lot to it. A way to keep your body in alignment, your muscles in shape, your spine tingling, this is perhaps a lot more important than ever. Just this small effort can keep my emotions in balance, my body in shape and flexible, all of which helps me keep a lot of other things in my life in order and in perspective.

I'm getting to a place where exercising in the morning and writing in the morning are my two DON'T-GET-IN-MY-WAY goals. If I get those nailed by 7:00am, the rest of the day is no problem. But it brings me back to another subject. If I drink wine or beer at dinner or stay up late the night before ... well, it throws off the morning and it's just not worth it. Thinking about renewing my "We Quit Drinking" goal of not drinking anymore. Even a little (and I don't drink much at all really -- a glass of wine once or twice a month) isn't worth it. It throws my routine off for a few days. I've been having a lot of interesting conversations about it with a wide range of people. I'll blog about it soon.

Obsessive Early Bird

Okay, yes, maybe I'm a little obsessive about getting up early, but it's the only time around here when no one is bugging me. The only voice I hear is the one in my head. An odd one to be sure, but sometimes I like to listen to it. It knows a few things.

Tea Please

Made about 300,000 cups of the stuff yesterday as I was fighting the good fight of

Germs: 0
Halley: 1

and thank goodness I scored. One more cup this morning should do it. Darjeeling straight up -- black, no sugar, no cream.

Four Fifty Three

I am in bed looking at the alarm clock which says, "4:53" am and I'm feeling lazy and need to get up and get cracking. Got next to nothing done yesterday but fought off a cold that was trying to take me out. I guess that's a fairly substantial accomplishment in this swirl of snow and slush and cold called Almost Spring. We Bostonians need a purple heart, a gold metal and the red badge of courage to have made it through this week of non-stop snow and disheartening cold.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Things To Say To Women Revisited

I love it when people improve on my silly lists of things about men and women. Thanks to Ghani for setting me straight over at Mischief To Data:

Ghani's Ten Things to Say to A Woman (or just Ghani) to Get Anything You Want:

1. "Honey, have you lost weight?"
2. "Do you want me to go pick up the Chinese?"
3. "What do you think?"
4. "I remembered that you liked both orchids and lillies, so I got you both."
5. "I'm so proud of you."
6. "Hey, I fixed your toilet seat."
7. "Do you want me to beat them up for you?"
8. "Take off your clothes"
9. "I don't know how I got so lucky to be with you."
10. "No -- let me take off your clothes"

Philip Larkin


This Be The Verse

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.

--April 1971

F-ing FCC

Don't miss Jeff Jarvis' coverage of the new political screamer -- the other HOWARD. The F-ing FCC will end up getting Howard Stern elected president if they aren't careful.

Dickinson


[Poem for today my friend Matthew just shipped over to me. I like it so much.]

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant--
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind--

-- Emily Dickinson

Spring Snow

What on earth is going on? Has it been snowing on and off for four days now? Admit it. It has. And this morning, there is the most delicate, tiny tissue papery falling of baby soft soap flakes, with an innocence of a maternity ward full of newborns, so painfully sweet and new this snow in its loveliness. But what is it thinking?

It's acting perfectly Christmas Evey and it's March 19th!!!! Someone tell the director to call out "Cut!" and turn off the phony Hollywood snow machine. This can NOT be real. This is Christmas in Connecticut and chestnuts roasting on an open fire, instead of white-out dropping on a 1040EZ tax form, which is more in keeping with this pre-April calendar. Ask an accountant to show you a spreadsheet -- no snow spreading out on their bleak landscape forms.

Trapped inside a snow globe they just keep shaking up. I want to dive for cover -- under covers. This winter's trying to make one tearful last stand -- as if to say, "didn't I do a good job, aren't these flakes just fab?" The poor dear has been so bitterly cold this year, she never got a chance to show her stuff. Okay, do your thing. Dump your flakes, but please, be done soon!

Who's Been Touching My Tools?

I keep coming back to this interesting idea about people swarming in different areas of a software application -- and how developers will innovate around that activity. It was from the piece on Groove. Listen to what Ray Ozzie is saying -- I think it might be fascinating when applied to a number of applications.

I see the swarming around tools a bit like the women swarming around tables at Filene's Basement. There's something about someone else picking up the fuscia blouse and WANTING IT that gives it value. Ever seen how women shop and if one is gazing longingly at a garment, sudden every other woman wants it. I have to remember to ask Ray if he's been hanging out at Filenes.

"If you found a tool within a space, that was very important to you and [if you] really wanted to be notified when something happened, you could optionally set a mode on that tool to send a notification when a change is made.

We found that started to cause some swarming around those tools. When somebody made a change within a tool within a space, you'd suddenly find a bunch of other people coming to that space immediately. In Version 3 we added features that suddenly make swarming pervasive. It's just so cool. There's a new automatic mode that all tools in all spaces are in by default. It watches?do you pick up this tool a lot, do you really care about what is going on in this dialogue?and notifies you more proactively for the things you care about and doesn't notify you for the things you don't seem to care about."

"Then we added taskbar and audio alerts that let you know when data has changed in a space [and] audio that lets you know when people enter a space to look at stuff that you might care about. The Launchpad lets you see visually who is in a space, the number of people in a space."

Seriously, in terms of a wide range of software -- like many of the social software tribal apps -- Friendster, LINKEDIN, etc -- it might be very cool to know what parts of the application are getting heavy use? If everyone on Match.com is doing a certain survey, wouldn't you like to know that? Wouldn't that make the value of that applet increase?

In a way, isn't that what blogging does -- it says "this is hot, this is interesting, everybody's reading about it now, everybody cool is writing about it now." And we swarm over certain ideas.

Chapter Three: How To Ruin A Perfectly Good Salesforce -- version 2.0


Chapter Three: And Another Thing -- version 2.0

[A few readers emailed me after I posted the first version of this chapter saying, "don't post half a chapter -- I hate that -- finish it and THEN post it." I understand their thinking, but maybe I want to use this as a place to experiment. Added a new front to this chapter. Everything after the ----- line is same as before.]

After the announcement that I was the new boss, we all sat there a bit stunned, especially the two men who were now reporting to me and then my cell phone rang and I saw a familiar number. It was only 11:30 in the morning, but I knew what the phone call was about.

"I need to take this -- and I'm in San Diego this afternoon -- I'll see you all Monday morning," I said, in a rather queenly way, getting up to leave and then I was in the elevator in minutes. Someone had taught me that there's no time like the present to start acting like the boss.

I flipped my phone open in time to catch his call.

"I'm heading home," I told him.

"Sounds perfect," he said, that nice slightly Southern accent. My gentleman caller.

I wanted to be out of the building fast, in my car, music on, leaving the beach and Santa Monica behind, traveling east to the Fox studios lot, hang a louie, left onto Motor.

Motor Avenue was a pretty old palm-tree-lined wiggly street that ran between the Fox lot and Sony Pictures -- a crooked arrow shot straight from Century City to Culver City -- lots of fun to drive in a sporty red convertible Mercedes like mine.

I was actually mad at this new French boss -- miffed, annoyed, vexed -- about getting promoted. It was hard to explain. It was just so -- well, in some ways -- just so smart of Francois to do it. Which is what made me angry. I was having a big wave of "Who the hell is this guy anyway?" He was proving to be more than I bargained for.

And another thing.

He noticed my purse. I had taken the new Louis Vuitton barrel bag in the spring colors with me that day on sales calls and it was on the banquette next to me in the restaurant when he tried to seduce me. He's French. I suppose that's how he knew. Most people don't know and the ones who ask about it, I lie to them and tell them it's "not a real Louis Vuitton, those cost a fortune" and I tell them it's a knock-off and they usually go for the idea.

But he knew.

It wasn't a knock-off. It was the top of the line. Not a $50 vinyl look-alike bought with cash from some Nigerian with a folding table in the shadow of a building in Century City with the legal secys flocking around. It was the real thing -- a nice $3500 bag they were happy to put on "his account" and wrap right up for me.

So that meant he knew I had a few secrets. Things I didn't share with the people at work.

And he probably saw my shoes. It was like a European to know good shoes. And I had very good shoes. I dressed down all the other parts -- plain jackets, simple jeans, nice skirts, hell, half my wardrobe was Issac Mizrahi's great new line for Target. But my bags and my shoes were the creme de la creme.

I put the French guy out of my mind when I turned the corner into my driveway and pushed the remote to open the garage.

I made it to my house before him -- which was always best. I was out of my clothes, shoes, bag on the credenza, music switched on-- Nat King Cole that he liked so much -- as I took my last stitch of clothing off. I was lying in bed naked waiting for him. I really needed to talk to him. I was glad he had called. He liked to spend the whole afternoon doing it. Me too.

By 6:00pm, he had to leave and I wasn't good at letting him go this time. I was clingy -- not my thing -- he laughed at me. Kissed me again, for the 400th or so time. We'd torn the sheets up. He had a lot on his mind, me too. It was rough house sex but also sweet and tight and wonderful. I let him go -- his lovely wife who still hadn't learned enough Latin to know what fellatio meant -- had Friday night dinner plans for him. He turned as he got out of bed, took a look at me, we grinned like very bad kids at one another, sharing the same idea for a moment, and then he let me make him a little late for supper.

I drove down to San Diego late that evening. There was no use even trying to get out of LA on a Friday night heading south until before say 10:30. I was visiting my sister, her husband and their four nutty boys. My insane nephews.

--------------------

So I was the boss. Boss. Hmmmph. What was Francois thinking? It was the Monday morning I was really going to start running things and my stomach did not feel so good about it. I got my standard latte at the Starbucks on the corner, at a much earlier time than usual, the streets were really empty at 6:20am.

I even looked different -- serious suit on today. I knew the two guys I had to manage would be half out of their minds and male egos this morning. First day with our old mommy manager gone, first day with me in charge. I couldn't forget the look on their faces when they heard Francois announce that I was the new Regional Sales Manager. They could have been looking at The Bride of Frankenstein, the way they looked over at me, their eyes widening in terror. Thanks guys, that much needed vote of confidence.

I was in early to interview a new saleswoman. Someone Francois knew through an old colleague. That made it tough to say no to her if she were the least bit good. Also, we needed another person on the team fast. I was inclined to hire a woman, not a man, to replace me. It seemed right. Only tricky detail was she and I were both named Sally -- that might be a little strange. What was I going to call her Sally2 or the "other Sally" or the UnSally?

I flipped on my computer at 6:45am.

My instant messaging started to flash right off. It was the big boss back East.

It said, "Alors, ca va?"

I typed back, "Why do you think I speak French?"

"Parce ce que vous etes tres intelligente et les femmes intelligentes parlent Francais," or "Because you're intelligent and intelligent women speak French."

Actually I did speak French but I didn't want to let him know that, "Whatever ... " I typed. "Sally's coming in soon, gotta go."

He was back, "You'll love her, she's great. Just wanted to say BON CHANCE on your new job and I've got numbers to review with you at 10:30. The competition is kicking your ass out there. You need to fix that for me."

"Gotcha," I im'ed back.

There was a glass conference room which was part of the suite we rented, shared by all the tenants. It was more like a big gold fish bowl, the way it was set up right by the elevators and everyone could see inside as soon as they got off on the 18th floor. It was probably the most interesting part of the office. You could see into the room to check out who was meeting and beyond it, it looked out on the Pacific Ocean which was a pretty spectacular view on about 360 days out of 365.

I hadn't grown up in LA, but I'd lived there long enough to know you could see some pretty amazing people in this town on a regular basis. So I wasn't thrown off too much when I saw a very beautiful person, but I just wasn't prepared for this Sally when she took her nice long-legged stride out of the elevator and made her way to the receptionist desk. I was waiting there because the offices really weren't even open yet. She was very, very gorgeous. Cameron Diaz cute and Jessica Simpson pretty and Reese Witherspoon sweet.

"Ut oh, actress," I thought to myself. The younger actresses were smart enough to do jobs other than waitressing these days, but that might make it tough if she wanted time off for auditions and all that.

The resume looked good. She was warm and funny and didn't miss a beat with even my tough questions. I liked her a lot. Around about 7:30, Bill Sanders came in and I gave him a quick wave, not intending to invite him into the conference room, but he came right on in, obviously wanting to meet the new Sally. he was pouring on his understated charm and when she turned back to me, he made a very small THUMBS UP gesture for me only.

By 7:45, Bryce had arrived. I saw his grumpy face change radically when the elevator doors opened. It was as if he wanted to show me how annoyed he was with me becoming boss, but the woman sitting on the other side of the conference table turned the frown around fast. I ignored him, knowing he'd come bounding in like a big eager puppy anyway, no way to stop him.

He was laying on the charm thick as I introduced him. I managed to throw him out fairly quickly, but within about five minutes, both of us noticed that the men suddenly had all these errands which required them going past the conference room and taking a peek in.

"They seem to be a little interested in our conversation," Sally said to me. They were to my back, but she could see them from her position in the room.

We both grinned.

"Do you need to go ... I know you're working now, I think we're done. I would like you to come back though and meet with Bill and Bryce."

"No problem. What about at the end of the day?" she offered.

"I'll have to check with them," I said.

She nodded towards the window. "They're both right there."

"Give them a wave, they'll melt for you. You must be used to this stuff."

"Men are kind of obvious that way, aren't they?" she said to me.

They came into the conference room and were more than willing to interview Sally at 4:00 and 4:30.

[Notes -- added the beginning and back story to the narrator Sally's history. Need to get the end part going. More tomorrow. ]









The Magnificent Seven

Wait a minute, I thought the seven dirty little words were:

1. shut-up
2. peepee
3. fudge
4. cooties
5. coo-coo bananas
6. phoney-baloney
7. tough nougies

I guess I've been hanging out with the wrong crowd. These tough talking 3rd graders have really let my morals erode. I fear for my life.


Thursday, March 18, 2004

News Aggregators Most Groovy

I was really intrigued by Steve Gillmor's piece here in EWEEK about Groove and especially liked what Ray Ozzie said about news aggregators vis-a-vis their new release.
Q: We've often talked about the Groove opportunity to integrate RSS aggregation and routing features. Where does that stand with Version 3?

We learned a lot with the RSS aggregator work that we're working on in-house. It's very easy for us to bring sets of feeds together from multiple interested people to look at. The only part that I don't think we've nailed yet is what happens when the useful information can only be seen when you're not looking at the summary—when you click the links, do you then have to go out to the site? People haven't packaged those sites in a way that they can be taken offline.

When I look at your site feed, the URLs in the summary point at HTML pages; they don't point at MHTs (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension HTML [MHTML] format), self-contained blobs that I can pull down. I would have to do a deep crawl of your site in order to pull down all the content into that shared space. Unfortunately, the Web standards people have not done a good job yet at, [is that when] given a URL, how to write a method to pull down the MHTs.


Q: The model I'm looking for here is the ability to capture an RSS feed that contains the full text or an XHTML rendering of it. And it would also solve some other significant issues related to RSS aggregation and authoring—namely, multiple machines, where Groove file-sharing enters the picture.


What we've done in Groove—not in the packaged product, but we've definitely done a few versions of it [that] our customers have used—is Groove aggregation. That same Groove aggregation technology works across your machines. If you read something on one machine, it gets marked read on the others. And it can aggregate multiple feeds, and so on. There are so many aggregators out there. I don't know whose is going to ultimately gain the most market share. But we have done a bunch of experimentation on that, and I look forward to, at some point, either we or one of our partners releasing a good group aggregator. That's a pretty obvious, useful application.

Ten Things You Can Say To A Woman

A friend asked me for some advice about long-distance relationships and wooing a woman. I sent him this list of "10 Things You Can Say To A Woman That Will Get You Anything You Want."

1. "I miss you, I want to spend some time with you."

2. "How are you doing? How's it going for you?"

3. "Tell me when I can see you."

4. "I don't want to be apart from you anymore."

5. "I don't think I can last ... waiting to talk to
you until tonight."

6. "I was thinking of you last night, just as I was
falling asleep, I wanted to dream of you."

7. "I wanna kill all the other guys in your office
who get to spend time with you every day and I don't."

8. "You look good enough to eat."

9. "I hate knowing I have to wait even an hour before
I can see you."

10. "I love you." (Classic, but always nice.)

Eyes On The Prize

The notion of keeping your "eyes on the prize" is about setting a big goal and not losing sight of that goal despite the many winds and storms that blow through your life. The words are probably best known these days as the title to a documentary on Civil Rights and express the idea that once the movement was focused on goal of freedom for people of color, they knew they had to dig in, keep that goal in mind -- keep their "eyes on the prize" and not let anything throw them off their path.

Here's some background on the series. And here's a class curriculum a teacher developed to teach his class about the series. He quotes from the "traditional civil rights song" where the phrase comes from. It's a powerful idea:

I know one thing we did right
Was the day we started to fight.
Keep your eyes on the prize
Hold on, hold on


Today I want to think about what really matters. I want to think what my goals for my life are in the next five to ten years. I want to set those goals and keep them in mind in all the small things I do today. What I do today will decide what I do in 2009 and 2014. Feel free to play along with me.

Write down how old you'll be in 2014.

Write down the town you want to be living in 2014.

Write down who you want to be living with in 2014. (If you want to be married or have a partner, but don't know that person by name yet, try writing "I'll be living with someone who cherishes me and wants the best for me." If you want kids, make up some names, first thing that jumps into your head.)

Write down what you want more than anything by 2014. (You might want a college degree. You might want a house. You might want good health. You might want to have published a book. You might want to be the CEO of a company. You might want to have a job that's fun and easy and connects you to people you love to see everyday. You might want to retire with a lot of money in the bank.)

Don't write anything else. Reread what you wrote.

Think about your goals. Living with people who love you will make you much healthier and happier. Living with as many friends and as much family as possible actually makes you the most healthy and safe. This will have a lot to do with WHERE you live. If you've made a committment to a certain town or location, the more you invest in that place, the richer your life will be. I've moved a bunch and I know this. You may not like where you live and if so, then you need to make a decision to move soon. You need to start investing your next 10 years in a place you like, because the investment will pay off.

Are you living with someone who loves you? This is a big deal. If you're living with no one and you want to live with someone, you'll start changing that TODAY. If you're living with someone who doesn't love you enough, or doesn't like you at all, you need to start changing that THIS MINUTE. You don't have to make a radical change. The only radical change you need to make this minute is to FACE the fact that you are not being loved properly. Give yourself permission to think this. A good way to think about this and change this is to see a therapist. If you've never done that, try it.

Talk to your best friend about these goals today. Call them up, set a date to talk about this. Help them think about their goals. Eyes on the prize.

If your goal is to be married and own your own house, you're going to think about what you do EVERY DAY that gets you closer to this or further away from this. Maybe you make choices that keep you away from meeting new people. You have to change that. You might hate parties and going out. Unfortunately, you'll have a higher likelihood of meeting a new person OUT of the house and so you'll have to try going out more, not turning down invitations, not saying no to stupid stuff you usually turn down like company parties, ballroom dance lessons, going camping, all the odd events you figure you'd NEVER do in a million years.

And you want to own a house, so you have to think about what you can do today to get closer to that goal. It might be setting up a savings account. It might be NOT spending $3.50 on a cafe latte. It might be finding out about getting a real estate license. It could be a lot of things that get you closer. How many things are you really doing towards the goals you say are important? Ask your friend to help you think through it. If you're doing nothing towards the goal, you need to sit yourself down and figure out why you're sabotaging your own efforts. Maybe you don't really care about this goal and need to admit it.

If you have your two goals in mind and something happens in your day --- you're living in New York (and loving it) and your boss calls you in to talk about a great opening in Texas -- you keep your eyes on the prize and know that this isn't for you, never will be and so you waste no emotional energy or time thinking about something that's OFF your path.

Say you have a goal to get married and your former girlfriend or boyfriend calls you up because they've just broken up with someone and they're lonely -- they try to talk you into going out with them -- and you know it will be FUN and you know it might even be kindof SEXY but you also have to admit it will get you away from the goal of getting married, not closer, because you KNOW you don't want to marry them and they don't want to marry you -- so you don't waste any time on it. Eyes on the prize -- you're thinking every day, does this get me closer?

They're thinking of getting you into bed tonight so they don't feel lonely. You're thinking 2014. You don't slip into "kindof sortof yeah sure okay" going out with them. You tell them you're busy. You take the time and energy and put it into something else that gets you closer -- you don't have to call ten new people on an online dating service -- you might go to the library or a book store and check out books on relationships. This is better than spending the night with your ex. And if you see someone nice at the library or book store, ask them a question -- talk to them -- ask them anything. Tell them your watch is broken, ask them if they have the right time. Anything will do. Don't expect it to go further. Just do it so you can come home and think, "Hey, I did something great today! I didn't fall for the old boyfriend/girlfriend. I went to the book store. I talked to that cute person ahead of me in line at the cash register." That's a good day's work.

Eyes ... on ... the ... prize. Have a fun day.