February 26, 2007

Writer: Beware scammers!

If you write and hope to publish one day, read this post and get used to visiting this site often.

Not King George... King George III

George Washington thought the office that was ultimately named President should be named King. He thought he should be America's King George.

George W. Bush is America's third president named George. That would have made him King George III of America, if the Father of Our Country had had his druthers.

Way back in 2003, even before W announced the "shock and awe" that had started in Baghdad on March 19th, I started calling him King George III. A relative (actually, an in-law) sent me an email saying how similar W was to... I forget, but it was either Lincoln or Washington. It was just too easy to reply with all the ways W was similar to Hitler in the days leading up to the war. So I didn't. I replied with all the ways W was similar to England's King George III.

You may recall that England's King George III (EKG3) presided over the war that eventually heralded England's fall from the strata of superpower: The American Revolution. EKG3 was also reputed to be slightly insane. He also didn't care for facts but surrounded himself with people who thought of the American colonist agitators as "a few dead-enders." He led the most powerful army in the world. He wanted the natural resources available in a land across the Atlantic Ocean, and he was willing to do anything to support the economic interests of his friends running major industries at the time (think East India Trading Company to W's Halliburton). He exhibited hubris unparalleled, wilfully blinding himself to the fact that invasions are difficult, costly, and often unsuccessful. The reasons continue to mount the more you look at the situations.

AKG3 (America's King George III) has been at this imperialistic warmongering for his corporate buddies quite a while. You'd think he'd get better at it with experience, but apparently he doesn't.

I will admit there is a difference in the two Georges' starting points for their failed wars. England's George started with friendly colonists and alienated them through bad economic and political policy, then turned to force to try to shut them down. America's George started with a strong world position and growing cultural influence and positioning worldwide, and through his awful policy he has started America's political, social, and cultural standing down the slippery slope of ruin and has spawned an entire generation of America-hating religious zealots.

I am happy that four years later, the political columnists are finally seeing things my way. (Actually, they've always seen it my way, but now they're just realizing they should be calling him King George. I wonder when they're going to clue in to the whole III thing.)

February 23, 2007

Little shakey-poo? (cool site bonus)

I think we just had an earthquake. It was not very large, in fact it seemed pretty tiny. Maybe a three. It felt like a really, really, really fat guy jumped off a desk about ten cubicles away. Windows whuffed and the floor trembled once. No big deal. But it does put you on edge, waiting to see if that was a precursor to "the big one."

When I was in New Orleans two weeks ago, someone asked the obvious question: "Why would anyone build below sea level in the direct path of hurricanes?" (The best answer I heard: "You don't build a port on a hill.")

They might as well ask, "Why would anyone build where the ground moves suddenly and violently and without warning?"

While I was typing, the USGS updated their page. Apparently, it was a 3.4 in Berkeley. Felt like about a 3.0 here in my office in San Francisco.

And the link to the cool site? The USGS recent earthquakes site.

February 22, 2007

thursday thirteen (#7)

Thirteen Movies I'd Own
  1. The Sting
  2. Lord of the Rings (all of 'em)
  3. Pirates of the Carribbean (Black Pearl)
  4. Singin' in the Rain
  5. Mary Poppins
  6. The Sound of Music
  7. The Road Warrior
  8. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  9. Memento
  10. Band of Brothers (OK, it's a series, not a movie, but still...)
  11. Shakespeare in Love
  12. Bridge on the River Kwai
  13. Heavy Metal
And an honorable mention: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly or Fistful of Dollars (or any spaghetti western with Clint). These are honorable mention because there's no need to own them when they show up on TV pretty frequently.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!
The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

February 20, 2007

THEMA in print!

THEMA literary journal, Spring 2007 issue, is in print now! My story, Joseph's Mother, appears in this issue and arrived in my mailbox today. The theme of the issue is "rage over a lost penny."

THEMA is a small operation out of Metairie, Louisiana, which is in the metro New Orleans area. The editor of Thema was displaced for sixteen months by Katrina, and she published two issues from the living room of a bed and breakfast a long way from her home.

Supporting THEMA is a good idea. If you can, hop on over to their web site and subscribe.

February 19, 2007

ugh, home sick today

I haven't taken a sick day in over four years, but it's finally caught up to me. Sore throat, stuffed up. Otherwise, not too bad. So what do I do on my sick day? Taxes seems appropriate. So maybe I'll try to get that done. Also, my presentation for Thursday night's cub scout pack meeting. I've volunteered to run the Friends of Scouting (FOS) for our pack this year. That's asking everyone to put in even more money than they have so far.

I'm going to try a little experiment. In the past, the FOS presentations have typically been about how the money goes to fund things like the day camps and dinners and graduations and other events. This year, though, I'm going to try a different tack: Our pack is well funded. The neighborhood is affluent compared to 99% of the world, though we're the "poor" neighborhood in our town. Our scout council covers some pretty tough areas such as Richmond and Antioch and Pittsburg, areas where scouting can really help young boys learn leadership and life skills that they may not get in other ways.

I read recently that of every 100 scouts, one of them will save a life some time during his lifetime. While I was in New Orleans, I heard a story of a 12-year-old boy scout who lived in a hard-hit area with his parents and grandparents. After the food and clean water had run out and they were still stranded in their little house, this scout got some pants, tied off the legs, and blew them up to create floats. He'd learned this in scouting. He was able to float his ailing grandparents from house to house to a place where they could be rescued. I also know that boy scouts and former scouts are leading teams of volunteers in demolition, cleanup, and reconstruction efforts.

We in the Bay Area are, as the CEO of the United Way of the Bay Area puts it, right in the middle of the bulls-eye for disasters both natural and man-made. When the "big one" hits here, I am certain that scouts and former scouts will be right up front in helping people who need it. It is important to support building the type of leadership skills and readiness/survival skills that scouting promotes, and it is important to ensure that kids in areas that could be hard hit by disasters get those skills, too. Friends of Scouting is less about pumping money into our own pack's events and more about the community as a whole and scouting as a whole.

I admit to some apprehension because of the Boy Scouts' policy of bigotry (anti-gay policies) and their focus on Religion with a capital R (to be a scout leader, you must overtly profess a belief in God), but the fact is that the scouting program does teach many good things to boys and gives them a lot of experiences they would not otherwise have. And we're fortunate in the Bay Area to have an atmosphere of tolerance, so the God/Gay thing is muted, often to the point of being equivalent to saying "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. Locally, there is deference to the family's sentiments, so the boys are not being indoctrinated into beliefs that I do not hold, just by being Scouts.

So, hopefully, my presentation will resonate with the folks in our pack. I have my doubts, though, because this area seems to be insular and selfish. About half the families here say that if their donation isn't going directly to support their own children and their own area, then they aren't donating... even though we are blessed (augh! a God word!) with all manner of abundance that communities just a mile or two away from us do not have.

What a strange world it is.

February 15, 2007

thursday thirteen (#6)

Thirteen Cool Projects I've Worked On
  1. The B-1B Bomber
  2. The B-2 Bomber
    My first job out of college was at Boeing, running paperwork in an engineering group on the B-2 (I spent three months on the B-1B waiting for my security clearance). What a great job: I got to see everything that went into making such a complex piece of machinery from design to test to materiel to manufacturing to flight test. I never actually saw a completed B-2 in person, though I was on site when Dick Cheney, then Secretary of Defense, visited the facility. Gotta admit he's not one of my favorite people these days.
    I was the first technical writer Geoworks hired, employee #45. There was another writer/pubs guy on staff, but he was user manuals. I was in charge of the software development kit. With a small fiefdom of tech writers at my disposal, we created over 5,000 pages of technical description and reference in about three years, across five volumes. I still have a copy of the behemoth that resulted. I actually think it was quite good for a team of college kids led by a 23-year-old.
  4. Geoworks Bindery
    My first real project as a Product Manager. This was a great idea when the World Wide Web was still wearing diapers. Back in the days before anyone realized it was possible to charge money to register domain names. Back in the days when Internet Explorer did not exist. People actually used Lynx to access world wide web sites. Back when "Cool Site of the Day" had only a few thousand to choose from. We built a content authoring tool for handheld devices. That was really fun to show off.
  5. MyTurn.com's GlobalPC
    Again, I was involved in the development kit and documentation. This was a good idea, but the execution was two years too late. If they had shipped two years earlier, or if they had switched to Linux two years earlier, they would have had a world-beater. Still, it was fun while it lasted. My favorite moment from this company was when they held a meeting after market close one day and said, "We can pay you through yesterday." They were good about letting everyone do job searches out of the offices for a couple of weeks, but it was tough on a lot of people having the funding just disappear like that.
  6. PledgePage
    This was one of the coolest things I ever worked on. It was a startup with four friends, before the internet bubble burst. We actually were featured as Red Herring's Catch of the Day on August 17, 2000. In the end, we donated the entire thing to CharityFocus. It's still going strong.
  7. The Nokia 9000 Communicator
    The first ever smart phone, I worked on (again) the development kit and documentation. I got to go to the launch at CeBIT in Hannover, Germany as my first ever overseas business trip. United lost my luggage, which meant I landed in Hannover without a coat in a snowstorm. But I got it the next day. It was an adventure trying to figure out how to dial the German hotel phone and get in touch with United. Oh, the N9000: What a cool thing. I still have one (the 9000i, which was the American version).
  8. The HP OmniGo
    This was pretty cool, too, though HP never really figured out what they were trying to do. They had their very popular handheld PC which ran DOS, and their first foray into graphical handhelds was sort of a mishmash of requirements if I recall correctly. Still, it had some very cool and innovative features.
  9. The Casio Zoomer (Z-PDA)
    This one launched Palm Computing. It was a direct competitor to Apple's Newton, and though it didn't have the "cool" factor, I think it compared favorably. The operating system was Geoworks' GEOS, and Jeff Hawkins started Palm Computing in order to create a few applications for the Zoomer. After that experience, he got the brilliant idea to make a simpler operating system to run his applications on. Thus was born what became the company that came out with the first Palm PDA, then was sold to some modem company, then was spun off again and is now the Palm we know and love today.
  10. RapidControl for Web
    I helped rebrand Rapid Logic leading up to the sale of the company to Wind River. This was another small company (I was employee #12), and I think I helped a lot. It was fun, though there were difficult times. It was a good product and, as I think back on it, a lot of good people.
  11. Vouchsafe, Inc.
    My buddy Chris and I decided to enter the Haas School of Business' inaugural Business Plan Contest in 1999. Our plan, for cross-media gift certificates (on-line and print), was a finalist in the competition. We had meetings with at least seven different venture capitalists, but again, we were slightly late to the party. Two competitors got big-time VC rounds as we were beginning to flesh out the plan, and we both decided we didn't want to play catch-up. We did have a very strong response from Nike when we met with them, but we realized we just couldn't deliver what they wanted in the time they wanted it. Ha! We had to be honest. Most real entrepreneurs would have promised anything Nike wanted and then used that to get the real venture money. What can I say? We were young and had integrity.
  12. Three novels, a buncha short stories, a one-act play, and oodles of poems
    The third novel, "Forced Air," is what I'm working on now. I actually have high hopes for it. If I ever get time away from my day job to finish the revisions, I think I have a shot at selling it.
  13. The internal pledge capture and reporting tools for Wells Fargo's charitable giving campaigns. (Sorry, no link; it's an intranet site.) This is something I'm very proud of. When I signed on in 2001, the online pledge tool served about 15,000 people. The tool I built now serves over 70,000 in the 4-week campaign period and captures over $15 million in pledges each year. That's a lot of money going to charity, and I am helping facilitate it.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!
The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

February 13, 2007

3,125 and STILL counting

It's worth saying again. 3,125. Dead. American. Soldiers. I'm guessing that what will eventually end up on Bush's tombstone is "It seemed like a good idea at the time."

What really chaffs my hide, though, is that our National Guard has to serve over there, fight over there, die over there. They could be over here, helping rescue New Orleans. Believe me, they still need rescuing. Did you know that the two ports in New Orleans are the largest in the nation, by tonnage? Did you know that a third of all the nation's seafood goes through New Orleans ports, and a quarter of all the nation's natural gas? New Orleans ain't just some quaint little historical place for college kids to puke on the street and for girls to show their tits in return for beads (what, is this some strange tribute to the original purchase of Manhattan or something?).

Not only that, but over 200,000 people who used to live in New Orleans are still living in other states, and they want to move back home. Basic services like hospitals, grocery stores--even showers!--are still unavailable in some areas. The workforce is not sufficient yet. And relief--particularly government relief--is slow to come, if it comes at all after dealing with unbelievable red tape.

There are great things being done there. I witnessed work the local United Way is doing. I saw the tremendous courage of the founders of the Just The Right Attitude food bank. I saw the frustration and perseverance of the founders and workers at the Beacons Of Hope. Strong people, working hard to rebuild their city better than it was. People who need help and deserve help and who have been forgotten and abandoned by the rest of the nation.

If you are planning a conference, consider planning it in New Orleans to bring them some business. Plan a day or half-day service project. All kinds of agencies can get you involved in a project.

One final note: I often rail against organized religion. I personally have no use for it. But one of the big success stories in this disaster has been the relatively efficient and effective response of faith-based relief groups and organizations. When the government failed utterly, the nonprofits and faith-based community have responded. But they need help.

Too bad our National Guard and military are deployed and depleted and dying in Iraq.

February 10, 2007

thursday thirteen (#5)

Thirteen Things That Piss Me Off
  1. cancer
  2. cancer
  3. cancer
  4. war
  5. these guys
  6. especially this one
  7. wireless networks that don't work (or only sometimes)
  8. W (even though I met a very nice advisor of his this week)
  9. rejection
  10. voice mail
  11. about half of all letters to the editor
  12. computers that don't work
  13. people who think they have all the answers

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!
The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

February 6, 2007

New Orleans: Devastated

You have to be here to appreciate it. A year and a half after the hurricanes, and the damage and poverty are just amazing. And that was just on the cab ride through some areas not that hard hit... on Thursday I go on the bus tour of the "affected area." Tragic. Heartbreaking. A little eerie driving past gutted businesses with dark lines (high water mark) up to your chest, bashed-out windows and plywood over openings.

Yet the spirit to rebuild and improve is here.

More photos are here. [link]

The problem with television is that everything becomes statistics. Everything becomes a Hollywood or Madison Avenue production. Viewers become numbed. Yet stand amid the wreckage and see little girls walking home from school, construction workers laboring under a sign that says "One building at a time," damaged houses draped with banners that proclaim "Doctor's office open"--you remember that these are all people, and every person has their own story. Some areas still, after all this time, have emergency shelters where people go for such basics as food and showers.

It is going to be years before this community and the people who live here are healed.

February 1, 2007

thursday thirteen (#4)

Thirteen Random Notes From My Recent Trips
  1. The Express Bus is a comfortable, cheap way to get from JFK to Grand Central.
  2. There are almost as many Starbucks per block in New York as there are in San Francisco.
  3. I met a woman in one of my meetings who went to the same college as I did and looks remarkably like another woman I know who didn't.
  4. Although JetBlue was on time (mostly) for me and very comfortable, I'm glad I wasn't one of the people in JFK whose flight came in late and JetBlue didn't hold the connection flight five minutes for them.
  5. I can't believe I watched three episodes of "Top Chef" and one episode of "American Idol" while flying over the midwest.
  6. 30 degrees with biting wind chill can feel tons colder than 20 degrees of windless sunshine.
  7. The New York Public Library should be on everyone's destination list when visiting Manhattan. Wow.
  8. The library's symbol is a lion. Their card catalog database is called CATNYP (Catalog New York Public, I guess.) Cute.
  9. Although I still pretty much hate New York (how could I love it growing up a Red Sox and Patriots fan?), there are institutions I really like in the city.
  10. It's a great thing when you can have lunch with your sister and buy your dad a cup of coffee while on a business trip.
  11. Everone says New Yorkers walk fast with their heads down. I find that to be entirely false.
  12. The next time I visit Minneapolis or New York, I hope it's not in January.
  13. I will be going to New Orleans for the first time in my life next week. That will be quite a different experience, I imagine.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!
The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!