Thursday, December 24, 2009

Davis in the Dell

36 Union is now a two laptop household:
That's right. Two Christmases in a row we've gotten new laptops under the tree. Now I have a laptop and Bobby has a laptop... And we've still got a desktop. So, three computers under one roof! And now, when Bobby goes away for a business trip, I won't be without a laptop. Thank goodness!

(My life is really hard, by the way).

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Let's get physical

Bobby and I went to Best Buy to purchase a $15 mini-tripod and walked out of there with a $300 receipt. Oops!

You see, they had this beautiful display of Nintendo Wii's stacked like a pyramid right by the entrance and the exit. And the gleaming white boxes were just mesmerizing. I couldn't help myself. It was a little like Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, with me as Eve and the pyramid of Nintendo Wii's as the Tree of Knowledge.

So, you see it wasn't my fault. I was just falling prey to the human condition... Anyway, here's a video of me and Bobby playing tennis on the Wii:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

This is what our government does?

Have you heard about this Red Balloon challenge that DARPA put together? This completely blew my mind away.

The funny thing is, I actually heard about this hunt for red balloons via Facebook. It must have been the day the contest was announced. A friend of a friend on Facebook had posted a photo of the balloons and tagged a bunch of people (not me, but one of my friends). I remember reading it and thinking that it must be some contest sponsored by Wired Magazine. I certainly didn't think it could be our very own federal government.

So, it's kind of creepy to me that the fellas at DARPA (which stands for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) would create this contest, which they claimed was designed as an experiment in tracking how information moves along online social networks. But it just seems odd. The guy who was in charge of contest is Dr. Peter Lee and he's the director of the Transformational Convergence Technology Office. That's not a typo. That's really what the office is called.

The more I look into DARPA, the weirder it becomes... When I Googled it, the little blurb that explains what the agency is reads as follows:
Commissions advanced research for DoD. It was founded in response to the surprise Sputnik launch in 1958 and fathered the Internet somewhere along the way.
Okay. Did you notice that? Sarcasm. What's with that? Oh, and we "fathered the Internet somewhere along the way." Did an intern write that? Did some funny web developer slip that in without anyone noticing? Really? Is that how DARPA operates? I'm mean it's kind of cool. But it's also a little disturbing. Shouldn't the people responsible for researching scary technology that could wipe humanity off the face of the earth be really earnest about what they do and avoid sarcasm? Maybe that's just me...

Here's a fun photo of the winners. I hope all the people that they promised money to get paid. That could be some bad publicity for the government if the whole things ends up in court or something...

Kitten in a cabinet

Pay no attention to the adorable cat:
This post is about the stuff in my cabinet. Check out those Stoned Wheat Thins and sprinkles!
I was putting away groceries and left the cabinet open. Wee One considered that an invitation to crawl into the corner of a cabinet. Silly feline!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Nutcracker in Gotham

I'm a little late with this post, but I didn't want to skip it.

My mother and I went to NYC to see the Nutcracker at Lincoln Center. Not surprisingly, it was a fantastic show. Beautiful costumes and fantastic dancing. My favorite parts were when there were large groups of ballerinas on stage, particularly the snow scene and the dance of the sugar plum fairies. Beautiful! I have to say that the party scene of the Nutcracker is always slow even at Lincoln Center. I'd appreciate a version of this tale that trimmed the party scene down substantially.

Of course, I wasn't allowed to take photos during the show, but here are a few I took before the curtain rose:

It was raining/snowing, so it was difficult to take a decent photo outside, but the one above isn't too bad.
The curtain before show time. The theater, which was recently reopened as the David Koch Theatre, had ample leg room. Very nice!

This is a shot of the ceiling, which was beautiful. The jewel-like fixtures on the overhead light was a motif throughout the theater, including on the five balconies ringing the back half.

We also had the chance to stay at the Trump Hotel at Columbus Circle. We were in a "junior suite" and it was sweet!
That's one of two floor-length robes in the second of two closets (one just isn't enough when you're in a junior suite). And on top of the dresser is a lint brush. That Donald Trump just thinks of everything!
That's me and my mom before we headed off to the show. Lookin' good!
Overall, the hotel was great. Comfy bed, great shower and the room had lots of great magazines and we got the NY Times Sunday edition for free outside our door. Take that USA Today. The one weird thing was the fact that the check-in desk was very close to the main door and the cold air came in. They should have a revolving door out front to prevent the wind from disturbing the guests. Get on it Donald!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

How newspapers blew it

I read this piece in the NY Times this morning and wanted to offer my response, from the perspective of a journalist who entered the industry just as it was collapsing:

I'm tired of hearing poor daily newspaper writers and editors bemoan their lost jobs. They have no idea how good they had it. For years, they worked within bloated newsrooms, with layer upon layer of bureaucracy protecting them. When I graduated from college with a degree in English and journalism in 2002, I would have liked a job at the big daily in Connecticut, the Hartford Courant. Want to know how many of the Class of 2002 landed jobs that year? ZERO. Want to know why? Because that paper had lived off the fat of huge profit margins for too long. It had built up its newsroom staff to excessive levels. Since that time, the Courant's reporting staff has been slashed repeatedly, all while its ex-staffers cry over the death of an institution.

I get really bitter when I hear people who've had illustrious reporting careers crying over the death of newspapers. At least you got to enjoy the ride! I once spoke to a man whose wife was a reporter at the Washington Post during the 1970s. He said that they would send two or three reporters out on one assignment, have all three report and write the story and then pick the best version. Sounds like a great way to get the best product. Also sounds like a great way to waste money. I heard this story as I worked at a small, family-owned afternoon daily in an old mill town in Northeastern Connecticut. I reported on a failed local effort to get a so-called living wage ordinance approved in town. I had to earnestly record quotes on this story while I slowly realized "those people" who weren't make a "living wage" included me and my meager salary. But I still went to work every day... and learned incredible lessons about reporting and about life in general.

At the same time, daily newspapers were ignoring a very basic lesson that they could have picked up in an introductory MBA class. Somehow daily newspapers forgot that they were businesses. And that absent-mindedness landed them where they are today.

I remember when I told the publisher of said afternoon daily that I was leaving to take a job at a regional business journal. He looked at me incredulously and said, "But we thought you'd go to the Hartford Courant." I remember looking back and saying, "Well, I don't think they're hiring." The truth was I was never going to get a job at the Hartford Courant. There were no jobs to be had. I can't count the number of times I cranked out a page one news story and saw the same story in the Courant authored by not one, not two, but three reporters. In other words the Courant would pay three inflated salaries to do the same work that I did as a recent college grad not making a living wage.

No wonder daily newspapers are in trouble today. They squandered their inheritance. They earned the trust of the public. They became a part of people's lives and were vital to the community. And then they got drunk on power and profit margins. While their very own celebrated columnists watched and wrote about it (earning $80,000 a week to write 650 words), the Internet came and completely turned their business upside down. They saw it coming, but these huge newspaper machines couldn't get out of their own way to make the changes necessary to survive (like sending only one reporter to cover a basic news story...).

Now, I continue to work in business journals, and I have had fabulous opportunities to advance. It's not easy and we have to work really hard with few resources. But that's part of our culture. Meanwhile, I look over at our daily newspaper competition and marvel at their flailing.

I recently interviewed a woman for a job opening at my paper. She's working at a medium-sized daily newspaper and has about a year of experience. She's making $45,000 a year to cover town council meetings. No wonder daily newspapers are losing money...

All this navel gazing in the newspaper industry has got to stop. Guess what, the rules have changed. We don't know where we going. It's the Gutenberg Era and what newspapers look like 10, 20 years from now will be unrecognizable today. All we can do is continue to provide compelling information. The answer isn't "synergy" and it's not selling content. It's digging up compelling news and delivering it to people.

As for this issue of online news and people not being willing to pay for it -- the answer is simple. If you provide people something of value, they will pay for it. If what you provide is useless, people won't pay for it. Maybe people won't pay for news online because the news online sucks. It's time for change, editors. It's time for risks. Some will succeed and some will fail. But it will be fun and interesting as we figure it out.

In the end, I'm actually grateful that I entered the journalism profession when I did. I didn't get to enjoy the heydays of five reporters on a single ribbon-cutting story. But I do get to be part of the team that rebuilds this industry.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Get it into your head

Matte black is flat black and that's the end of the story.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Whiners in helmets

Heard this story on the way home from the office today. It's about a bunch of whiny cyclists in California who are mad at the drivers that threaten them on the roadways. Now, I am not an advocate for threatening cyclists, but I am an advocate for using common sense. I like to ride my bike, but I'm smart enough to stay off roads that have a lot of cars or that are too windy and narrow. And I certainly don't ride two, three-people abreast on aforementioned windy and narrow roads.

Here's a really insightful quote from the story:
"When I see the light turn red, I try to race as fast as I can through it," she says, "because I know I will have a block of peace and quiet, where there won't be cars behind me."
Yeah, that sounds like a great strategy.

Just stick to the back country roads and you'll be fine! Last time I checked, riding your bike on a major thoroughfare in one of the most congested regions of the of United States was not included in the Bill of Rights. If you love your bike so much and want to ride it every day, move to Kansas. I'm sure they have ample shoulders for your Cannondale 12 speed.

Oh snap!

Google New News

Seems as if Rupert Murdoch's complaining forced Google into action. Check out the news.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Illin'

I'm surrounded by viruses at every turn.

I discovered today that I had 26 (count them, 26) bits of malware on my work computer. Doh! Guess my daily visits to the gossip site x17online.com (only during my lunch break, boss) have made me vulnerable to attack. I will have to break my addiction to the site, which will be almost as hard as giving up Coca-Cola.

And if that weren't enough... I came home to a virus for a husband. He picked up something in Maryland, so my motto is:
I was hoping to watch The Good Wife tonight, my new favorite show. But I just discovered that it's being preempted by the stupid Victoria Secret fashion show, which stretches a five-minute display of lingerie into a 30-minute time suck. But I'm a loser, so I'll probably watch it. Boom Boom Pow.

Fit Count: Zero