Arte y Pico Award

Cromely's World won an award last week. Thanks, Roller Katy -- it looks great.

Oh, and congratulations on your new logo. Lookin' pretty sharp with that Bug and Gremlin. These days, when people are talking about those they are usually referring to programming hassles and not classic autos.

The Arte y Pico Award is intended to recognize blogs that inspire others. The creators suggest that winners deserve it based on creativity, design, interesting content, and contributions to the larger blogging community. You can read more about the award here. Most of the site is in Spanish, but the rules are also there in English.

Here are 5 other blogs that I believe deserve the recognition.

Not In My Book

Jon's blog is where I made the transition from forums to blogging. I've know Jon for 20+ years. After commenting extensively on his blog, I decided it was silly that I didn't have my own.

The Thin Red Line

Alan reviews a mind boggling assortment of books, displaying both librarian insight and an impressive brevity. Alan was one of the first bloggers I met in the blog community, that i did not also know in real life.

Art Constellation

Jenny's blog is an intensely personal one exploring her life and art. She discusses her journey towards recovery from 17 years of abuse and incest. It's well written and despite the difficulties faced, it never comes across as a "woe is me" type of thing. That's especially impressive with everything Jenny's been through and continues to struggle with. Because of the subject matter it's not always easy to read, but it's wroth it.

The Beacon

Haley Hughes is a writer in Chicago. Her blog is a nice varied collection of things that strike her as interesting, various goings on in the Windy City, and writing itself. The posts are well written and do a great job of putting the content front and center, rather than the writer.

Mom's Musings

The only non-Entrecard blog on this features the writings of an expatriate New Yorker making her way in the foreign land that is New Jersey. It's my mother's blog. She's been blogging now for a year and half, and is always worth reading.

Be sure to visit all these winners, if you don't already read them. They all have something to say.


Life in the skies...Almost

This morning I was scheduled to fly from Seattle to San Antonio, via O'Hare.

I got to the airport at about 8:45, and got checked with minor hassle. Then I headed over to the N gates for my flight on AS 26, scheduled to depart at 10:45 AM or so. This would give me a nice layover in ORD in case anything went wrong.

Here is the list of text messages I sent to my GF today.

  • Gate change old plane now goes to hawaii new plane at d gates (9:42)
  • Still at sea tac two hour delay by chicago air traffic control weather (11:23)
  • Now we have a mechanical delay (11:49)
  • Finally on plane have fun today (11:59)
  • Still at sea tryinging new plane now will likely miss connection unless they get massive delay too (1:42)
  • Scheduled to board new plane in ten minutes its not here yet (1:50)
  • Now scheduled to reach ord at 8 18 connection leaves at 8 25 (1:57)
  • Now on eleven tonight on american (2:16)
So now instead of flying SEA-ORD-SAT and arriving at 11:10 PM, I fly SEA-DFW-SAT. I leave SEA at 11:40 tonight and arrive at 8:13 AM tomorrow morning.

I think I'm going to be late for booth duty the first day of the trade show.

Wish me luck.


13 Coins in Seattle

The "13 Coins" name is of Peruvian origin. The story goes that a poor young man loved and wished to marry a wealthy girl. Her father asked what he had to offer for his daughter's hand in marriage. The young man reached into his pocket. He had only 13 coins, but assured the father he could pledge undying love, care and concern. The father was so touched, he gave his daughter's hand and "13 Coins" has come to symbolize unyielding love, care and concern.
13 Coins is a Seattle institution. The restaurant opened in 1967. And it is still open today. 24 hours a day.

Located near the corner of Denny and Boren, where Belltown meets Cascade, 13 Coins is a throwback to a different era. The high back leather booths reach to the ceiling. The tables look less like a spot in a restaurant, and more like a sleeper cabin in a train. The stools at the counters are huge, with comfortable leather backs that reach over your head. The stools themselves are big enough for two normal people, or one person who regularly frequents full service restaurants at 3:00 AM.

The whole place looks like a chummy steak house from decades past.

Despite being open 24 hours, its no frilly Denny's. It's a real restaurant with an extensive late night menu. The food itself isn't quite fine dining, but it does have that feel to it.

And despite how this is just the kind of place that would appeal to me, tonight was my first visit.

And the food was good. I had a tasty pasta carbonara, that would have been enough to feed two people. The crab cakes were okay. The Mai Tai my GF ordered was almost pure rum.

The main criticism I have is that the place is a bit overpriced for the food quality. The crab cakes were good, but they weren't $15.95 good. My GF ordered the NY Steak and Eggs which had great hash browns, but that was $19.95. A small cup of clam chowder was $4.95.

These are prices I would expect to pay for room service in a hotel where they tack on the delivery fee, plus a 20% service charge. For the restaurant and the food quality, the prices are bit much.

But overall, it's a great experience. The menu has plenty of variety, the food is tasty, the drinks are boozey and the atmosphere is awesome.


Oh, crap: A Day In The Life of Hellboy

Here is the latest stop motion animation from Play Cole: A Day In The Life of Hellboy

Even demonic superheroes like Anung un Rama have some of those days.

New animals

From the Seattle PI:

Nutria -- a voracious herbivore as big as a large housecat and prone to molelike digging that turns lakeshores into Swiss cheese -- are enemy No. 1 for some Seattle residents and businesses.


Oh, come on. Now they're just making stuff up. A cross between a beaver and a rat is eating the shore line? That's just silly.

They're 20 pounds and eat five pounds of vegetation a day? And we brought them in decades ago? Why is this just making the news now?

If these critters are as nasty as the article says they are, then I'm sure we need to solve the problem.

But I can't help thinking this is all some weird practical joke.

Just then, a grebe paddled by.

"They could build a nest and a nutria buzzes through and they're a goner," she said of the small bird. "I can't help but thinking this bird-nesting habitat is significantly affected."

A grebe? Seriously?


PT Cruiser

I don't like it.

The PT Cruiser came out 5 to 10 years ago when the retro look in cars was all the rage. it was designed to look like the wagons of the thirties and forties. Many people hated the look, but I thought it was cool. For some reason I've always been partial to the boxy look in a car. I hoped that at some point I would get to drive one.

Today, I got my wish. My rental car on the current business trip is a PT Cruiser. And it drives terribly.

The acceleration doesn't feel quite right. More importantly, the steering on this car is terrible. The thing cannot make a tight turn. I think the Ford Explorer makes tighter turns than the PT Cruiser. I'm amazed at how much pavement it takes this car to simply go left.

There are very few cars I actually dislike on the rental aisle. They include the Ford Taurus, the Kia Optima, and now the PT Cruiser.

It looks cool, but simply doesn't drive well, which defeats the purpose of having it.

Next time, just give me the Hyundai.


Some thoughts on George Carlin

George Carlin's death over the weekend touched a lot of people and there are more eloquent memorials across the net than I can muster. Time.Com takes a look at his life. Other blogs I regularly read offer there own memorials here:

What I like most about Carlin was that despite not finishing high school, he was brilliant. His humor could be outrageous but it wasn't outrageous for just the sake of getting attention. He didn't attack power just to get a cheap laugh. He did it to make a point.

His jokes and routines had an edge to them sharpened just to slice through hypocrisy. He chose his words carefully and deliberately to express his outrage at the absurdity of modern society and the values it embraced.

But beyond his the sheer force of his biting satire, Carlin loved language. His rants, whether they were out of anger or bemusement displayed a keen grasp of power of words and how words chosen can alter perception. Contrary to his claim at they end of his seven words you can't say on TV bit, words do matter. Words have an impact. And Carlin chose his words brilliantly.

I've seen memorials cite his seven word bit, maniac vs. idiot drivers, and baseball versus football bits. And there is poetry in the way he expresses those thoughts.

To really see Carlin's poetry on display, though, watch the Modern Man:

You'll be missed, George.


Nothing has changed

I about this last summer. After tonight, I can say it is still true. The best dessert in Vegas is still the bread pudding at Nine Fine Irishmen.


A question about coffee

I started drinking coffee the summer of 1991, when I spent 4-weeks in Spain. Each morning, I started my day with a lovely cafe con leche and croissants or tortilla. Thus began my love affair with that humble and heart jarring bean.

Since them I've spent way too much money at coffee shops, been through whole bean, french press, drip, Vietnamese style, and even Maxwell House filter pack style coffee. I've enjoyed most of it, but I could never find quite that same magical elixir I knew in Madrid.

After awhile I assumed the flavor I thought I knew didn't really exist. It was an illusion caused by the intoxication of the early stage of that love affair. The coffee I thought I knew was really just a figment of my imagination born of the giddiness of all that was new and wonderful.

I was content with my more mature relationship with the bean.

Then I found it again -- in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I ordered a coffee and got my special one and only cafe con leche. The flavor was the same, and it took my right back to those days on the Gran Via.

It was real. It wasn't my imagination.

And I need more.

Where can I find the traditional, Spanish Cafe con Leche in Seattle? Or elsewhere in the mainland? Is there are way to order it at a coffee shop that I don't know? Or do I just need to go back to Spain or Puerto Rico again?

It's time to brush up on my Spanish.


Broken glass

For the past 7 weeks, my deck has been under construction. This was supposed to be a 5 day job, the weather hasn't been cooperating. They couldn't very well rip up the roof while it was raining, and we've had an odd Spring.

Last weekend they had the opportunity to get some work done. There was a little accident with a nail gun, however, and they shattered the glass on my deck door. It took 1.5 hours to shatter, and all the glass stayed in the frame. This was originally a solid pane of glass.

I know it has to be fixed, but I really like the pattern.


Book Review 26: An important idea

The theory of the Long Tail can be boiled down to this: Our culture and economy are increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of hits (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve, and moving toward a huge number of niches in the tail. In an era without the constraints of physical shelf space, and other bottlenecks of distribution, narrowly targeted goods and services can be as economically attractive as mainstream fare.

Page 52

How does a store's business change when it has unlimited shelf space?

Chris Anderson answers that questions in "The Long Tail: Why the Future Is Selling Less of More." This is one of the hottest business books of the past couple years and its title has moved into the main stream.

In this book, he discusses the impact of the internet not just how people by products, but on what it means for content producers.

In recent history, the most successful products are the big hits. If you chart product sales from most popular to least popular, you get a chart that's tall on the left and tapers off towards nothing on the right. That section of the chart to the right is what is meant by the long tail.

Hits have dominated music, movies, TV shows, and books for decades, simply because stores had limited space to show stuff, and as a result, they carried only the products likely to generate significant sales. With the advent of ecommerce now, that changes. Amazon does not have a limit to their shelf space. They can offer all products.

When that happens, people start buying the less successful products. They're not choosing inferior ones, but they are choosing products that only appeal to a small niche.

For the content producer, that means it's not as important to make hits -- they can appeal to the niche. There are millions of dollars and livelihoods now being made in the niche markets in a way that simply wasn't possible with ecommerce.

That’s the root of the calculus of the Long Tail: The lower the costs for selling, the more you can sell.

Page 88
Chris Anderson explores these issues in depth in his book, and does a better job describing the phenomenon than I do.

There is great content in the book and it is an important read for anyone interested in how ecommerce and the internet are transforming traditional retail.

I'm not thrilled with the execution of the book, however. There seems to be a lot of stuffing. It's only 230 pages long, but Anderson could have made his point just as effectively, if not more so, in 50%-60% of the pages. I'm not sure how well a shorter book would have sold though. More pages makes people think they are getting more for their money.

I'm also not thrilled with how he structured the book. It comes across as inefficient. He introduces concepts in different ways and then talks about some examples , whether it's Amazon, Google, or Rhapsody, then seems to throw in more concepts.

I would have preferred it if he introduced all the major concepts up front, and then dedicated each chapter to analyzing a different company in detail, while explaining how it demonstrates each of the concepts he discussed earlier.

The company stories he tells are the best parts of the book, but they don't get the focus they deserve.

There are some fascinating stories in here. Early on, he talks about the rise of catalog shopping, by telling us how Sears got started.

Railway cars delivered this new variety on a network of iron tracks that were transforming the country's economy and culture.

The man who first showed the American consumer just what all this could mean was a railway agent in North Redwood, Minnesota. His name was Richard Sears. In 1886, a box of watches was mistakenly sent from a chicago jeweler to a local dealer in North Redwood who didn't want them. Buying them up for himself, Sears sold the watches for a nice profit to other railway agents up and down the line. He then bought more and started a watch distribution company.

Page 42

When people could easily shop by catalog, you could have the rise of a mass consumer culture. People were no longer limited to local products. Thousands of people around the country could have the exact same product.

Over the decades this evolved into the modern retail business model -- it's all about efficiency.

Today's retail display shelf is the human interface to a highly evolved supply chain designed to make the most of time and space. Standing as much as seven feet high and four feet wide and extending up to two feet deep, the average supermarket shelf module has the cubic capacity of a minivan.

Page 151

Again, it's ironic, this paradox of plenty: Walk into a Wal-Mart and you're overwhelmed by the abundance and choice. Yet look closer and the utter thinness of this cornucopia is revealed. Wal-Mart's shelves are a display case that may look like everything , but in a world that's actually a mile wide and a mile deep, a veneer of variety just isn't enough.

Page 156

This wasn't just the case with physical goods. As radio consolidated throughout the nineties, the record companies cracked the formula for creating a hit.

The industry had cracked the commercial code. They had found the elusive formula to the hit, and in retrospect it was so obvious: Sell virile young men to young women. What worked fro Elvis could now be replicated on an industrial scale. It was all about looks and scripted personalities. The music itself, which was outsourced to a small army of professionals (there are fifty two people credited with creating No Strings Attached), hardly mattered.

Page 31

The industry is facing challenges today in that their core demographic is changing.

Every year network TV loses more of its audience to hundreds of niche cable channels. Males age eighteen to thirty-four, the most desireable audience for advertisers, are starting to turn off the TV altogether, shifting more and more of their screen time to the Internet and video games. The ratings of top TV shows have been falling for decades, and the number one show today wouldn't have made the top ten in 1970.

Page 2

It's more than just not watching TV though. It's using the Internet to both find niche products and to create them.

My favorite story from this book is that of The Lonely Island. They are a group of guys who made sketch videos, uploaded them to the Internet, and then got discovered by Saturday Night live.

The Lonely Island really is relevant to these cultural transitions in multiple ways. First, they couldn't get hired as writers because that was a highly competitive field, which left them out in the niche space, apart from the hit makers.

Second, the took the new technology of the Internet and inexpensive video production and editing software to create content that would have cost thousands of dollars to do a decade earlier.

Third, by setting up their own website the bypassed the restrictive nature of the retail shelves (or network TV time slots) and made their content available to whomever wanted to see it. They didn't have to compete with anyone for space.

Fourth, once they were discovered and hired on to Saturday Night Live, it was fans on the Internet posting their favorite Lonely Island bits on YouTube at no cost. Once the Chronicles of Narnia hit, through the Internet, SNL was suddenly relevant again.

It isn't easy for an individual comic to make it in TV -- even as a writer -- but it's even harder for a preassembled team. Sure enough, the threesome quickly ran up against all the usual barriers in their hunt for work in Hollywood. However, rather than subject them selves to endless rejection, the three took their act -- now named after their home -- online. Borrowing some video gear, the Lonely Island Crew started producing short-form comedy videos and songs. Schaffer's kid brother Micah -- a tech consultant and Internet agitpropster -- threw together their website, thelonelyisland.com, in 2001.

Page 79

Jeff Jarvis, a media commentator, described the impact like this: "I haven't heard anyone buzz aobut, recommend, or admit to watching SNL in, oh, a generation. But suddenly, I hear lots of buzz about the show. And it's not because millions happened to be watching when the show happened to actually be funny again. No the buzz is born because folks started distributing the Narnia bit, which, indeed, is funny, on the Internet, and people are linking to it. NBC is learning the power of the network that no one owns." And sure enough, links to the SNL site increased more than 200-fold in the two weeks after the video started circulating.

Page 80-81

The Lonely Island tale has come full circle. Misfits rejected by the entertainment industry go online and get popular. Entertainment industry wakes up to this phenomenon in the hard to reach demographic of influential twenty-somethings and hires the misfits. The kids do the same thing on broadcast TV, but since the influential demographic doesn't actually watch much TV, it isn't until the skit goes back online (now amplified by the net-kids-make-it-big appeal) that the skit gets really popular. Thus SNL , previously scorned by the online generation, suddenly gets cool again by tapping into the authentic underground spirit blossoming online. Once upon a time, the show used to handpick its talent pool from obscure regional theaters and improv troupes. Now they also find it online.

Page 81

What I find interesting, and which Anderson doesn’t go into much detail on is that by empowering the niches, and empowering people to create content, we are not creating and entirely new paradigm of cultural existence. In fact, we are simply reembracing the Professional/Amateur ethic of the 19th century.

Astronomical discoveries are not just the province of professionals. With access to data, the Internet, and high power amateur equipment, people who don't make a living in astronomy can contribute to break throughs.

This is how one of the greatest astronomical discoveries of the twentieth century unfolded. A key theory explaining how the universe works was confirmed thanks to amateurs in New Zealand and Australia, a former amateur trying to turn professional in Chile, and professional physicists in the United States and Japan. When a scientific paper finally announced the discovery to the world, all of them shared authorship.

Demos, a British think tank, described this in a 2004 report as a key moment in the arrival of a "Pro-Am" era, a time when professionals and amateurs work side by side: "Astronomy used to be done in 'big science' research institutes. Now it is also being done in Pro-Am collaboratives. Many amateurs continued to work on their own and many professionals were still ensconced in their academic institutions. But global research networks sprang up, linking professionals and amateurs with shared interests in flare stars, comets, and asteroids

Page 60

The 20th century saw the demise of the amateur scientist doing significant research. Invention, science, research, etc, became the realm of professionals. Silicon Valley, with the now cliché garage based company may seem to buck this trend, but the fact that people are astonished that large companies grew from such small enterprises further emphasizes how rare this has become.

All that is changing now. Astronomy can be worked by both amateurs and professionals. In recent years, writing for the public required a newspaper. Blogging changes that. Advanced photography required and expensive and big dark room. Photoshop and digital cameras changed that. Creating music required a full studio and advanced sound board. Audio software changed that. Broadcasting movies required a cable channel. YouTube changed that.

To do these things before you had to be a professional. You had to specialize. In the modern ear, that's simply not necessary. People can pursue and explore a variety of interest.

We are witnessing the rebirth of the Renaissance Man.

It's possible the 100% dominance of the hit over the niche was simply a historical aberration. It's like when take a giant bowl of water and dump more water into it. It ripples and splashes and sloshes. But eventually it all settles down at a higher level.

I think that's what we're seeing now. The growing success of the Long Tail is the settling of the water.

Chris Anderson's book covers a lot of these things in detail. It's an important book. I just wish it was a little shorter and organized differently.

Here are a few other passages I enjoyed:

"For many years American Airlines made more money from its Sabre electronic reservations system (essentially the travel industry's shared navigation layer for the bewildering world of routes and airfares in the seventies and eighties) than the entire airline industry made collectively from charging people money to ride on planes. From time to time, certain Baby Bells were bringing in more profits from their yellow pages -- essentially the navigation layer of all local business before the web came along -- than form their inherited monopolies. And at its peak, TV Guide famously rivaled the actual networks in profitability.

In a world on infinite choice context -- not content -- is king.

Page 109

When you look at a widely diverse three-dimensional market place through a one-dimensional lens, you get nonsense. It's a list, but it's a list without meaning. What matters is the rankings within a genre (or sub-genre), not across genres.

Page 114

What the Long Tail offers, however, is the encouragement to not be dominated by the [80/20] Rule. Even if 20% of the products account for 80% of the revenue, that's no reason not to carry the other 80%. In Long Tail markets, where the carrying costs of inventory are low, the incentive is there to carry everything, regardless of the volume of sales. Who knows -- with good search and recommendations, a bottom 80% product could turn into a top 20% product.

Page 132

Both hits and niches see their sales slow over time; hits may start higher, but they all end up down the tail eventually.

Page 142

This huge expansion in selection was accompanied by a major shift in movie access pricing. Where before, the standard was one person, one ticket, now there was one small price for as many people as you could cram into your house. This transition was loathed and resisted long before it was grudginly accepted and finally embraced by Holywood interests. (Recall the early attempts to sell movies at retail for $70 to $80 -- a price that was calculated based on the amount of money a typical family would pay at the box office to see their favorite movie two or three times.)

Page 199


Seatac Subway

At my second home, Seatac airport, there is a subway. Actually there are three subways. They are used to connect the central terminal to the north and south satellite terminals.
The line itself is fairly old, but they renovated it a couple years ago.

But it makes no sense to me.

To get from the N gates to the S Gates, you take the subway to the central terminal, switch to another subway car that takes you to the other end of the central terminal, they switch to another car to get to the S Gates.

All these lines run close together, and I imagine there must be common service tunnels under there.

Does anyone know why, when they renovated the entire system, they didn't just do away with the separate lines and make one loop? It might make a trip a little longer, but it would be much more convenient and simpler to get from one place to the next.

It must have made sense to someone.


How negative are you?

You Are a Little Negative...

You can be negative from time to time, but you rarely go overboard.

You have a realistic view of the world, and most people appreciate your honest insights.

Like everyone else, you have your darker moods.

But when you're feeling super negative, you keep your feelings to yourself.

That sounds about right.

I tend to be a somewhat happy person because I tend to be pessimistic. I often go into situations with low expectations and am pleasantly surprise when things go well.


The Presidency has limits

On Thursday morning, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in BOUMEDIENE ET AL. v. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, ET AL. and in doing so restored one of them most precious rights to the country.

Petitioners are aliens detained at Guantanamo after being captured in Afghanistan or elsewhere abroad and designated enemy combatants by CSRTs. Denying membership in the al Qaeda terrorist network that carried out the September 11 attacks and the Tali-ban regime that supported al Qaeda, each petitioner sought a writ of habeas corpus in the District Court, which ordered the cases dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because Guantanamo is outside sovereign U. S. territory. The D. C. Circuit affirmed, but this Court reversed,holding that 28 U. S. C. §2241 extended statutory habeas jurisdiction to Guantanamo.
This is good news for all of us, not just those out to harm the US as some commentators claim. The decision essentially over turns key parts of the Military Commissions act of 2006, which said in part:

(e)(1) No court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the United States who has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination.

What sometimes gets lost with the phrase Habeas Corpus and assorted Latin terms is what this actually means. Essentially the right of Habeas Corpus means that someone who is arrested gets to go before a judge to challenge that arrest.

Without that right, the President can imprison anyone forever -- not trial, no testimony, no evidence. It's entirely at the executive's whim.

Now many will say that wasn't true. In fact the act above says it only applies to an enemy combatant.

The problem is there was no review.

So say for example, an natural born US citizen says something the President doesn't like. Maybe that person tells jokes on TV or perhaps just blogs occasionally about politics. Or maybe they painted their house an offensive color. It doesn't really matter what they did.

If the President got upset, he could have declared that person a non-citizen enemy combatant and locked them up in Guantanamo. Before this new ruling, that person would be there until the administration changed it's mind.

Some might say this is impossible because the person clearly is not an enemy combatant and is absolutely a US citizen. They can't be detained.

The problem is that without Habeas Corpus, there is no way for that citizen to make that argument. They can't go to court to challenge that detention. They are detained because the President said so and there is no way to object to that. Without Habeas Corpus there is no way to challenge an error by the administration or to challenge wrong doing by the administration.

This is why the ruling was so critical. Independent judicial review is essential to the survival of our country. The long history of separation of powers is what keeps us from turning into Zimbabwe. Our President shouldn't be allowed to arbitrarily detain anyone he chooses without independent review.

I'm not saying that President Bush used this power in an aritrary way like the examples is used above. What is terribly frightening is that he could have. He could have thrown Scott McClellan, Cindy Sheehan, Nancy Pelosi, Al Franken, or anyone else in prison with no judicial review.

That is a a power no President should ever have.


I lost 154 pounds...

... of paper.

Today I hauled 10+ boxes of paper down to American Data Guard in Seattle. It was 154 pounds of paper to shred and completely filled a 4 foot tall industrial trash can.

I began using ADG about 3 years ago for my shredding needs. It's safer than just recycling paper. And it means they do all the work. It cost just $33 for them to take all that paper off my hands and destroy it on an industrial scale.

I could shred it all myself, I suppose, but I hate doing that. The trash can always fills up too fast. The shredder jams. The process takes too long. The time I would most want to do it is 1:00 AM, and I don't think the neighbors would appreciate that.

154 pounds may be a bit excessive for one year, but it does include a years of back files that I just scanned to PDF. Plus, since I don't have to shred stuff myself, I end up sticking just regular paper in the shred box. Not sorting it means I can avoid one more hassle.

If you have stuff you should be shredding but aren't, or if you are just tired of shredding stuff on your own, check out commercial shredding services in your area. It's worth the cost.


The glamorous world of business travel

This is one of the really exciting nights on a business trip.

2008-04-23 wednesday Night at the Hyatt

I almost got caught up on my expense reports.

Nothing says party like Receipts! Receipts! Receipts!


As God is my witness, I thought penguins could fly

This just may be the cutest lottery commercial ever. My GF stops and watches it whenever it comes on TV. I may just have to pick up a few more Mega Millions tickets just because of this.


This sounds familiar

For my birthday, my GF got me a book reprinting the New York Time from April 14, 1971.

I get a kick out of reading those old new stories, flipping through the classifieds, and looking at old Gimbel's ads.

This story struck me as oddly familiar, however:

South Vietnam's Police Force Gaining in Size and Status as U. S. Increases Aid

Saigon, South Vietnam, April 13 -- The South Vietnamese national police force is quickly expanding in size and influence here, largely because of increased American financial support and an organizational change that moved the police command to the highest levels of the Government.

The South Vietnamese police have long been rated as one of the weakest forces in the pacification program. Corruption among the police is considered to be widespread, and morale, because of low wages, is not good.

An independent report submitted to President Nixon last year cited South Vietnamese police ineffectiveness as a threat to the long-range stability of the Saigon Government.

United States officials continually stress that the national police must play a vital role in the program designed to track down and kill or capture Vietcong political officials. As the Americans leave, the American officials say, more and more of the security programs will fall to the police and they are are being equipped with highly advanced technical devices with which they will attempt to track down Vietcong agents.

Increase in Funds

American funds funneled into the national police through the military-civilian advisory agency known as CORDS have been increase this year by more than 25 per cent -- from $20.9 -million in 1970 to $27.3-million.


Among the less-controversial programs of the national police is the identification once, introduced late in 1968 with American help. All South Vietnamese who reach the age of 15 are required to carry plastic identification cards, which are consider by American advisers to be part of the "most fool-proof classification system yet developed."

According to one high-ranking public safety adviser, more than 18,000 South Vietnamese are employed in the computerized classification program which is based on Federal Bureau of Investigation techniques.

The South Vietnamese police also carefully control the movement of people and resources throughout the country. Hundreds of police check points are set up on the main arteries of the countryside and on city streets.

The checkpoints, some of which are permanent, while other are mobile, annoy most Vietnamese. But as one public safety adviser said, "We are well aware that the Vietnamese dislike being checked so much, but we are still fighting a war here."

The major problem for the national police, aside from public criticism and enemy activities, is corruption.

The policeman's basic monthly salary is not enough to allow him to live without working at another job or taking bribes. A policeman without a family earned the equivalent of $12 a month in real buying power; a policeman with a family of four earns $18.

The portion of the article I excised for space focused on the grow in the police force and its role beyond urban areas

Obviously Iraq is not Vietnam. The situations in both places are much more complicated than that. But there are fascinating parallels between policy challenges the Johnson/Nixon and Bush administrations faced in both places.

An overview of the mortgage crisis

If you want to get learn more about how the current mortgage crisis came about, This American Life recently did a great broadcast on it. They dissected the situation all the way from the person who had no business getting a mortgage to the person who had no business making that loan to the person who had no business buying that loan, and on up the chain of money.

The coverage has a nice balance. They don't vilify anyone as evil. But they don't excuse anyone from blame either. At each step of the way it's average people made bad decisions based on greed and peer/societal pressure.

You can listen to "The Giant Pool of Money" here. Or you can probably download it through iTunes.


Time to kill?

Play Filler. It's a simple and frighteningly addictive web game.

Just use your mouse to inflate balloons while avoiding the bouncing balls. Have are could it be?

The best I've done is level 15.

Shatner Palooza: Better than Slice Bread

Jon's latest writing project is on NewsGroper:

NewsGroper read my last piece on Yankee Pot Roast and asked if I would write something for them. I did. No byline on this but I can tell you it's me.

From Not In My Book by Jon Clark

Read "Five Reasons Why William Shatner Is Better Than Sliced Bread".


Less ironing

Downy Wrinkle Releaser actually works. Kind of.

I picked up this little bottle because it seemed cheap and small (TSA friendly at 3 FL OZ (90ml)), and promised I wouldn't have to iron. I didn't think it would work, but shockingly it does.

Normally when you have wrinkled clothes, you have to drag out the ironing board and you have to try not to cause major injuries with the iron. And you have to listen to that horrid squeal when you open the ironing board.

Once I get past that, I don't really mind ironing, but I'm not very good at it. It takes me 20 minutes to iron a shirt.

And when my shirts come out of my suitcase, they need to be ironed.

Downy Wrinkle Releaser is much simpler. I simply hang my shirt up, give it a few spritzes with this magic liquid, and tug gently on the shirt. Most of the wrinkles come right out. Some of the one that don't come out right away, will disappear on their own in a few hours. Then I just hang it up in the bathroom when I take my morning shower and that gets rid of the rest of the wrinkles.

It's not a clean or sharp looking as if I actually ironed, but it still leaves me looking reasonably professional with minimal late night effort. And that's a worthwhile trade off for me.


ASTD Conference

This week I attended my first trade show -- as an attendee.

I've probably been to 40-50 tradeshows over the past 10 years, but it's always been as an exhibitor. I would show up before the expo hall opened, stand in my rectangular area, talk to people for 8 hours a day, then limp back to my hotel to go out for a late dinner, and finally come back to my room and settle down to regular work for 4 hours.

At ASTD, I'm on the other side and it's an interesting experience. I'm spending more time at the convention center and spending my days running from one session to another and trying to squeeze in a few minutes on the expo floor to look at products, 95% of which I have absolutely no use for.

The most interesting thing about the conference has been the scale. Sure, it's no CES. But then, there are major cities in this country smaller than CES.

When I showed up for the first session on Monday, there were already hundreds of people in line. Thousands of people ultimately showed up for that presentation. I'm not sure what the total attendance at the show is but it must be in the neighborhood of 10,000 people. And nearly all of them are involved in employee training somehow.

The conference has been worthwhile and I've seen a few interesting things on the show floor. But there is one thing I was looking for that I couldn't find.

I was looking for portable PA systems that my presenters can take on the road and set up in small training rooms or loud areas where we need to speak to people for hours on end. A microphone/speaker set up would make things easier. But I guess that is not something of interest to most trainers/presenters. Or if it is, it hasn't occurred to the manufacturers yet. There were actually very few vendors of physical "stuff." Most were selling curricula, consulting, content management, or learning management systems.

So basically they were selling ones and zeros or they were selling time.

I'm not getting any more rest than I do when I'm working a tradeshow, but at least I'm not standing still. And somehow or other I'm learning stuff along the way.


Corteo in Marymoor Park

Corteo is one of the Cirque du Soleil traveling shows, and it is wrapping up its Seattle leg.

I enjoy the Cirque du Soleil shows, but can't quite hand myself over entirely to the experience. I'm too linear. I want things to make sense. When I go to a show that presumably has a story or theme, I want to follow along with that story. That's not really possible with a Cirque show. Supposedly they all follow a theme. They express a story rather than tell one. Many of them are based on legends or dreams, further enhancing the ethereal nature.


They are beautiful expressions of athleticism, balance, juggling, comedy, and the true, incredible capabilities of the human body. The creativity and energy is intoxicating.

Especially when I stop trying to think about the story.

This was my fifth Cirque show. I've seen Dralion and Delirium in Seattle; and I've seen Ka and O in Vegas. I don't think this was my favorite, but everytime I try to rank them I come up with nothing. So maybe it is my favorite afterall.

I guess the trick is not to think about it too much.

Corteo tells the story of clown who dreams about his funeral. The different acts tell about different parts of his life. At the end, I'm not sure if the clown is actually dead or his dream just ends.

One of the early acts is a bunch of acrobats jumping around on two trampolines/beds. The energy and wackiness is truly joyful. The story is about the wild times in the clown's youth and can be read in a couple different ways. It's either about the exuberance on children, or the young clown's sexual exploits. Regardless, the portrayal is subtle enough for the act (like all the others) to be perfectly family friendly.

The Chandelier act, Tibetan bowls, Teatro Intimo and other acts are all amazing.

Also in the cast are two little people -- a husband and wife team. In one act, the woman is suspended from several helium balloons and floats around the stage and audience like a beach ball at a rock concert.

As an added plus, parts of the show are actually in English. Most Cirque shows are in gibberish or French. This made it quite a bit easier to pretend I was following the story.

This show is also more intimate than a typical Cirque show. At most Cirque shows, the clowns play with the audience a little bit in the beginning, then they climb up on stage. The rest of the show happens in a disconnected manner. There is no acknowledgment that there are two thousand people watching until the curtain call at the end.

Corteo is different. The performers look through that fourth wall to the crowd. The clown references Seattle. They play to the audience in a way that is different from the straight up exhibition I've come to expect from Cirque.

There is a little crowd work in the beginning, but not too much. If you want to make sure you don't participate, simple avoid the first or last row in a section, and avoid the aisle seats. But really, I wouldn't worry about it.

The only complaint I have would be the seats themselves. They are too narrow. Coach seats on most airliners will give you more room. In these seats, you are almost guaranteed to be touching the person next to you. Since Cirque takes the whole thing on the road, these seats will follow the show to all cities.

If you are a fan of Cirque Du Soliel, it's a fun show and worth the time. If you haven't been to a Cirque show, it's a good a introduction to genre. Anyway I look at it, it's an evening well spent.