Monday, August 27, 2007

My Brush with Greatness

There I was, backstage, managing the video streaming for Conversation With the Candidates for the IAMAW.

First candidate up? Hillary Clinton. When she heads back offstage, she's nice enough to stop for a picture with all of us backstage folks. I, of course, am head-down, staring at my monitor, making sure the streaming worked. And I have headphones on.

So, instead of being IN the picture, I'm sort of behind it, looking annoyed, and completely ridiculous:


Monday, August 20, 2007

I Hate Neil Gaiman - But You Should Still See Stardust

I hate naturally talented people. They piss me off.

If you were that person in high school who played varsity football while maintaining a 4.0 GPA, working a part-time job and spending spare time helping out at the old folks' home, then yes, I hate you.

That's also why I hate Neil Gaiman. He makes all this writing stuff look way too easy.

Want a series of graphic novels about a dysfunctional eternal family that includes Death, Dream and Desire? No problemo. He'll just whip that up for you. Result: The Sandman.

A chronicle of 50 different mythologies played out in modern-day America? Sure, he can do that. Result: American Gods.

How about a motion picture that ties together various myths about the Fey, makes the audience laugh, but still manages to include drama-worthy moments? Yup, he can do that to. Result: Stardust

Stardust is based on another one of his books (dammit!!!!). I won't say much about it here as it's too easy to give away the good stuff. Suffice it to say: It includes a flying sloop, a fallen star, some nasty witches and yes, a dysfunctional family. It is well worth the price of admission. Go see it!!!

And read the book, too: Stardust

Friday, August 17, 2007

A Fire, and Open Source Journalism

This is not my house. But it was close enough:

Photo by Garrett Burke.

I woke up last night around 12:45 AM from a nightmare that I was back in the LA Riots, with buildings burning around me (I'll tell that story another time).

I was still in that early state of waking mental retardation when I heard a FWOOOOMP and our bedroom was lit orange and red, and I could feel heat from a fire coming in the windows.

My wife jumped out of bed, panicked. I lay in bed, panicked. We both ran upstairs to the deck and saw this:

Photo by Garrett Burke.

The fire was enormous. A construction site near us had gone up - no sprinklers, no fire retardant materials, nothing. We could hear people yelling, and waves of heat were hitting us even 200 yards away.

Then embers started falling on our house and our (very dry) yard.

Dawn grabbed Harrison. I grabbed Morgan. As we headed outside I saw one of my neighbors, only more orange, running towards the fire. Not my first instinct, I gotta admit, but his house was further away and safe from the fallout.

We put the bewildered, scared kids in the car and Dawn took them to a nearby friend's house. I grabbed a hose and started chasing down smoldering coals in my yard. My neighbor was out hosing down his trees.

The police and firefighters were on the scene within about five minutes. For about ten minutes, though, hot coals ranging from dime- to walnut-sized were wafting gracefully down on our yard.

Somehow, nothing ignited. Around 1:30 the fire was under control, and we weren't getting any more embers. But I found glowing coals in my yard up until almost 2 AM.

Dawn and the kids came home and crawled into bed. We all slept in our room - the kids were too scared to do anything else.

Because it was a construction site, no one died. Three firefighters were hurt - no civilians that I know of.

Here's the distance between our house and the fire. About 200 meters:

After things were calming down, I went online to see what was up. The West Seattle Blog was already providing blow-by-blow information on the fire and who was affected. They did an excellent job, and had all the information long before any local news outlets.

This makes me think about a lot of folks who talk about dispersed, open-source journalism. It's not something that's coming. It's here.

Adopt your neighborhood - write about it occasionally. Make sure that folks know they can go there to keep up to date.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Kids and Video Games

My 7 year old son and 5 year old daughter are playing a little Lego Star Wars.

I have reservations about it. I ration my kids' "screen time" carefully, every day, to an absolute maximum of 1 hour.

But I'm listening to them chattering away, talking to each other, laughing when something funny happens, etc.. I don't think I'll be letting them play more than 15-20 minutes. But clearly they aren't going into a video game coma, either. Interesting...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

4 Reasons to Hate Globalization - pass it on

...At least corporate-driven, lowest-bidder-wins, screw-the-rest-of-you globalization:

  • Lead paint in kids' toys. If you think this is some obscure thing that won't affect you, read this. Then do something simple - tell 2 other people about this. Just people you know.

  • Bad stuff in their toothpaste.

  • Bad pet food.

  • And then, my favorite: Boeing is having components of the Dreamliner 787 built in China. Not to mention a bunch of other places.

I'm not suggesting that China, or any other country, is any worse or better at building products, making toothpaste, etc.. And, I actually support globalization.

But are we all completely retarded? Why does globalization have to mean dangerous, crappy products that kill people?

Go blog about this. Or tell two other people about it. And insist that they each tell two people, too. This is our responsibility - don't shrug and say you can't do anything. That's ridiculous. You can do the easiest thing in the world: Tell two other people.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

RFPs: A Refuge for the Weak Minded?

I suspect that RFPs may soon replace fundamentalist religion as a way for people to excuse stupidity:

These from an RFP we just received:

"5.2 Lowest Price Guarantee
Vendor agrees that if Vendor offers the same service or products to another customer comparable in size at a lower price than the rates detailed on this Request for Bid, Vendor will adjust the District’s costs to the lower rate. "

First: We don't sell mufflers, you stupid git. We are a marketing agency. We never offer the 'same service' to a client. That's why you hire us. Otherwise, you could go buy "Marketing for Dummies - the Big Print Edition" and do it yourself.

Second: What if we offer a lower price to a charitable organization? Are you saying you don't want us to do charitable work?

Wait, it gets better:

"The purpose of this project is to significantly improve both the effectiveness of the #### public website as a centralized resource for supporting the needs of our students, parents, faculty, staff, and public visitors, and the perception, tone, and competitive positioning of the #### online presence."

Wow. Good thing you narrowed it down for us. I WAS going to write a response explaining how we'd make your site ineffective, with a crappy tone and terrible positioning.

Maybe I shouldn't post this. It might insult other people and keep them from sending me equally great RFPs.


Oops. Damn...

Thursday, August 02, 2007

A Bridge Too Far

A bridge collapses, killing an indeterminate number of people.

We continue spending billions in Iraq.

If you think the two aren't connected, you're mental.

Spending huge, sticky gobs of money on poor strategies and crappy planning distracts us from issues like infrastructure. More bridges will fall. In fact, they've been falling for a while.

Wake up people. The people who say you're 'un-American' for questioning a horrifically bad military strategy abroad are the same ones who are letting our bridges, highways, education and police forces go to seed.