Monday, November 1, 2004


My name is Stuart, I've got a daughter, I don't know who she is, and I'm trying to find her.

It's strange to see my whole life reduced to one sentence.

I know you've seen those movies where people are looking for somebody, and they can plaster up signs that say Jane Doe, age 25, blonde hair, blue eyes, last seen on the road to Billings.

I can't do that.

I don't know her name, what she looks like, or exactly how old she is. I don't know if she knows I exist at all. The only reason I know she's here at all is, I've been told.

The Griffin -- that's what I'll call that wise old man here -- he says I've got to find her. Says that's the path I've got to follow now, to get where I'm supposed to go. Griffin pulled me through before -- and back then, I thought he was asking crazy stuff, too.

Maybe this will make sense someday, too.

I've been looking for a while now, back in the world. No luck.

Thursday, November 4, 2004

Modest Needs

When I bailed out of the commune and headed for Asia, I thought village life would be idyllic. It turns out it's a lot like the commune turned out after it all went bad: you just know too much about everyone, you can't get away, and eventually it all turns into Opera.

But one good thing about the village is that everyone knows everyone's troubles. If something does a little bit wrong, someone's bound to help out. In the city, though, who knows? I'm reminded of that heat wave in Paris, with old people trapped in their walkups and nobody thinking to look in on them.

That's why Modest Needs seems so sensible. They ask people who need help to ask for it -- people who need a small, one-time boost that will make a lasting difference. People who were living right at the edge, barely able to keep up -- and then their car breaks down, or their kid gets sick. You can't get to work, you lose your job. Pretty soon, you're homeless. Or worse.

You can't always fix everything, but sometimes if you get the radiator hose on the car fixed or pay the daycare, everything sorts itself out.

Saturday, November 6, 2004

MSN Spaces

With MSN spaces, Microsoft have caught onto blogging for real. I have been following their employee bloggers (Hi Scobelizer! ) with interest - they seem to have been granted a license to do pretty much to do and say what they want on their blogs. Last week, I discovered that even some of their recruiters keep blogs - Heather has a very interesting post about why recruiters don't blog - and Gretchen and Zoe 's blog Technical Careers @ Microsoft contributes to giving Microsoft a fun, warm image. Looks like they love their jobs!

You've got to wonder though... how much time of their work days do they spend on blogging?! Heather mentions that "A blogger that is committed to not only post regularly, but also to read other blogs, write comments, track links and respond to people that contact you (for me, I estimated this as 30 min to 2 hours a day)."

Wow. Wish I'd get paid to blog my job, too..

Anyway - I was interested in seeing how their spaces for people like you and me was designed. MSN Spaces offer a lot - except control over your templates! Power to the user here translates to publishing power - not design power... Check out the screen shoot - their templates are pretty cheesy. Microsoft isn't known for pretty, but they didn't need to compensate for this with what seems to be aimed for color hungry teenagers... I took a test drive and here is what my MSN blog ended up looking like.

... .perhaps I should keep this blog, and post anonymously so I can set Madison up for a joke? Come to think of it, she'd love these happy looking templates - just her style.

Saturday, November 6, 2004

Comment Spam

Why must the World Wide Web, a beautiful and noble thing, be f..... .. by spammers and the businesses and peddlers who pay them?

Poor Jessey. My comments were completely ruined, too, in the end I had to cut them off my blog. I guess that is just how it goes, sometimes. Can blogs be interesting even without comments? Here is an article in the BBC news (from 2003) - explaining comment spam.

Some people think comments are all wrong, anyway. Mark Bernstein writes about the Moveable Type designers:

"The full-day delay of traditional weblogs is a good thing; the mistake the Trott's made was not in raising their prices but in popularizing comments.

Weblog comments incite duels. Duels are bad for society. We should all forego comments and return to carefully blogging responses -- including responses we disagree with, but excluding responses we cannot tolerate."

Sunday, November 7, 2004


I was just reading the latest fiction on when I came across Fireworks by John Pnim. The author of this story writes with a disturbing intensity about the war in Iraq. The characters include: a paramedic student, a woman who has just attempted suicide (her husband was killed in combat two months earlier), and a nurse who has a husband still fighting in Iraq.

The nurse, who believes that the war is just, tries to comfort the suicidal woman by telling her that her husband died doing "good work, fighting for freedom." The woman is livid when the nurse says this because she hates the war and President Bush who she blames for the death of her husband. She spits on the nurse. The nurse sees the patient as "imbalanced" and the patient sees the nurse as naïve.

Meanwhile, the paramedic stands by, letting all of this all happen, paralyzed into silence by helplessness and a fear of adding to the conflict between the nurse and the patient. He thinks that the nurse is wrong, but he knows that no amount of convincing is going to sway either woman's viewpoint.

This story could really be an analogy for my relationship with my parents. Aside from short, awkward phone calls on holidays and birthdays, I haven't spoken to them in years. I think that just like the paramedic, our past has been so filled with conflict that it's easier for us to not talk than to talk because we are afraid of opening up those old wounds that just never heal.

The other day, I was at Starbucks with my friend Madison, drinking a white mocha latté when these two guys came into the coffee shop. One of them was tall with dark hair. His eyes and nose gave him a rooster-like appearance. The other was more handsome, well-built, rugged, and blonde. They ordered their drinks and sat down at the table right next to us. I guess that one of them recognized her from the bookstore and immediately, both of them started to flirt with her. I could tell that she was really enjoying the attention.

Since the conversation evolved mostly around Madison and the bookstore, my eyes and my mind started to wander a bit. I noticed two young parents with a tiny baby girl sitting in the corner. They were goo-goo-ing and goo-gah-ing over her. It made me think back to my own parents—I wonder if they were ever excited to have me around.

Sunday, November 7, 2004


This morning, enjoying a coffee at a cafe, a father with two kids sat down at the table next to me. The boys began running around with much ado and sound, fetching coffee bags from the shelves to "buy", chatting loudly and tripping in people's computer wires. At one point, a student with an expensive laptop politely asked the father if he would mind swopping tables with him, so that his wire would be out of the way for the kids. "Well! I am not sure if having wires around here with the kids is a very smart thing to do," the father said, not wanting to swop tables, adding that the student could just unplug instead. Or pack away the computer entirely.

The student stared at him with his mouth open and people turned their heads to see what was happening. One of the kids seized the opportunity of his father being distracted and ran out the door. "HEY!" the father screamed, running after to catch this little body of mischief, but now kid #2 saw his opportunity, climbing up the barrista's desk, helping himself to 5 paper cups. Someone next to me leaned over and whispered: "Don't you feel as if you're watching an episode from the Simpsons, too?"

The kids were cute and innocent enough, but it occurred to me, having spent some time away from this country, that parents here have become very liberal in their child rearing. Were kids this wild in the past? I read a very interesting article, written by a "liberal parent" on this.

We good liberal parents have brought up a generation whose members think of themselves as outside or beyond the social fabric. They have never had to worry about anyone other than themselves, and Voilà! they don't.

Now, this has me worried. What about my own daughter. How was she raised? What was she like at this age? What would I have been like as a father? Would I have enjoyed being a parent?

This feeling of being something I have never experienced is incredibly confusing.

Monday, November 8, 2004

Game blogs

Neat idea - a collection of links to game blogs - some are reviewed, too. I wonder if this is how people get to these blogs though - these lists seems to be popular at first and then nobody updates and... suddenly, it is not that interesting anymore.

I find blogs via friend's blogrolls... blogrolls are as infinite as the universe. The next links has another blogroll, which has another, which has another.... you can surf up your entire day this way. Fun to do when work is slow.

Monday, November 8, 2004

Where to start?

I have been doing searches online on how to track down a person. I am completely at loss at how to best do this.

Some of the sites I've found give good advice on how to start. Some say that you can find a person with as little as their first name. How can that be! Just a name... I don't even know my daughter's name. At one site, they listed reasons a person can't be found. I guess I never considered the possibility I might not find her... the reasons were criminal activity, or, the person could be indigent, homeless... what if she is? What if something terrible has happened to her?

I found a great site at PBS, History Detectives, listing the first necessary steps:

Read about genealogy at your library, and search birth records. There is a register you can search online.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Professional Blogging

Professional Blogging: a strange concept. But let's be real: work is money. Blogging is work. Why not? I'm new to this but I don't find this idea strange.

One hole in the system is obvious: if you can make a little money with your blog while you're living in Kalamazoo, you can probably make a LOT if you live in, say, Bantaeng or Kitale. As I understand it, the advertisers will pay you as much for blog ads, wherever you happen to live.

(The statistics on this particular site are fanciful -- 20% monthly readership growth, 5% CTR, it's not going to happen.)

But think: $10 of ad income per month is nothing in Kalamazoo, but there are plenty of places where $10 per month would be useful.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004


Since I graduated last spring and was hired in August - I can't enter the student contests anymore. That doesn't mean I'm not watching them, though. You can learn so much about new trends by paying attention to how students design. But sometimes, the contests drop off the face of the earth.... for instance, what happened to Macromedia Student Contest Design?

"Our first student design contest brought in more than 1,500 entries and was an amazing success," said Pat Brogan, vice president, solutions, Macromedia. "Macromedia wants to take an active role in providing software and support to the next generation of Web developers as they learn their craft, and the Student Resource Center and contests are one way to accomplish that mission."

What would this guy say today.. If you browse Macromedia's Innovation Program now, you won't find open contests nor any recent contest. What happened?

Anyway - there are still some interesting galleries to browse. My favorite is Arthur Roper-Newman, who writes:

"The site was originally inspired by the way ant colonies work, where orders derive from the base up. The many stories I had written became the basis for events within the colony, and it just grew from there. I hope this ongoing environment inspires people or makes them think when they view it."

Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Interface with overlay navigation

The design team at Colette is trying to do something interesting - they have built an unusual interface to their web catalog. There are drag-able items layered on top of a sketch of a room - not that interesting in itself - but when you roll over the items, one of item on each screen will bring a transparent layer over the room sketch. They haven't taken this further, which is disappointing. But there is an idea in there somewhere... imagine using transparent layers as a way of navigating, up a level, down a level, different places..... wouldn't that be neat?

Do you know of any sites that use overlays to help visitors navigate? I'd love to hear from you...

Friday, December 3, 2004

Claudia Cortes' Colors

My friend Antonia just sent me a link to Claudia Cortes'Colors because she liked it and thought that I might too. She really goes for all of that artsy stuff. All I can say is that it is so riddled with gender stereotypes that I am considering sending an email to the artist to complain and adding Antonia's email address to my spam list so that her emails get blocked.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the site, it includes movies for each of six colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet). In each movie, animated people that look like the people on public bathroom doors (the guys wear pants and the women and girls wear skirts) walk around and act out words that are represented by the color.

But listen to this … which gender is shown to represent the words educated, technical, authoritative, commanding, and rebellious? Men of course! The few women in the movie (wearing skirts of course) represent words like vain and fantastic (a delicate fairy!), or are nursing someone back to health, walking children to the school bus, or reading a book to children at bedtime. Not that I have a problem with showing women as being nurturing or anything, but there certainly are plenty of intelligent, commanding, and authoritative women out there as well (have you ever tried getting a kid to go to bed at their bed time? I rest my case!). There are plenty of nurturing male nurses and house-husbands out there as well (and they probably don't like it that their professions are always being represented by women).

The same thing happens in video gaming as well. The games are just the same old sexist fairy tales rewritten, over and over. The men are there "to save the day" and be some kind of big testosterone-driven hero, while the women are there just to have big boobs—so that the game companies can successfully market their products to all of those horny adolescent boys out there that have nothing else to masturbate to because they are too young to buy pornos. It makes me so angry!

Saturday, December 4, 2004

Working in a bookstore

Bookstores aren't particularly peaceful before Christmas. There is all the angelic music for sure - no escape from angel harps sounding over you while you browse through the sections. But this is manageable. Customers aren't always so.

Since the internet, people have been treating bookstores differently. It's like everything is disposable: You read something, you dispose of it. In the past, you could always count on someone shouting out "oh, I have that book!" if you mentioned your current readings. Alas, no more: People stop by, pick a book, buy it, read it.... and.... RETURN IT!!! Just have a look at this article - The Barnes and Noble's experience:

One of the first things I learned while working at Barnes & Noble was that you should never, ever pay for a book. You can read an entire goddamn novel in the store and we won't bug you once. If you'd rather the convenience of reading at home, simply pay for the book, keep the reciept, and finish it within fourteen days. Even if you say "I didn't like it." they'll take it back. If this surprises you, then you should be even more surprised to learn that this is B&N's version of a strict return policy; recently changed from 'If we carry it, you can return it; no questions asked.' You'd be surprised at the number of people who do this; many seemingly consider Barnes & Noble a library that just happens to require safety deposits.

What's happening here?

I wonder - can it be a side effect of how we read on the internet? People don't keep physical libraries of anything anymore, let's just face it... they don't even shop for cd's now when all they need to do is to load the music into your iPod... Digital artifacts like book lists in a blog is more important than your home library. People enjoy showing off what they are listening to in their Instant Messenger heading when they are online more than bragging about having someone's lates album..

Anyway - this all means that every single day, clerks like me get bugged down with sales return after sales return, even before the infamous month of January...

The link above is a pretty hilarious read. I feel inspired to write about my own stories! Lately, this strange, elder guy have been coming to the bookstore. He never buys anything. He stays in the religious section area, carefully scrutinizing every single book. Yesterday, he seemed very interested as this cute guy approach me, asking for advice on a cooking book for his mum... I wonder what that was about - it was kind of creepy that he was so interested in our conversation. I'm already convinced that this guy is a live blog post waiting to happen...

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Online dating

I'm having so much fun trying out different dating sites!

It would have been so much more fun to do this together with someone - but Madison isn't game. I've tried hard to convince her -- these sites are getting better and better all the time. Obviously there are some flaws here and there, and outrageous claims, too. At you can take an attraction test to see who you'd be attracted to, and who'd be attracted to you. So far, I'm not seeing exactly how that can be assessed in pure data, but ... it is interesting.

I spent some time creating some profiles on different sites this morning. When I got back from lunch, I had to spend nearly an hour sifting through my inbox! So what if some of them aren't quite what one is looking for...? There are bound to be one or two you'd want to meet up with.

I'm emailing with at least 7 guys right now - it is nice to have some choice! Come to think of it, Madison's problem is that she is too picky... When she was over at my place last week and talked about this, we did a few searches on She didn't like anybody! I bet if she just met some of them face to face, she'd think different...

Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Giant in the Playground's "Order of the Stick"

I found this great site this morning. It's a comic strip called "Order of the Stick" from the Web site The comic artist, Rich Burlow, is a game writer and designer, and he is absolutely hilarious. It had me in hysterics! The characters are all straight from a role-playing game — the heroes include a rogue, a halfling ranger, and their battle-hardened leader Roy Greenhilt.

My favorite of strip was a spoof on those inane automated voicemail answering systems — you know, the ones with menu after menu of options that confuse and frustrate you every time your phone bill is wrong or you want to change your billing information with your insurance company. The minstrel, Elan the Bard, has been injured in the field of battle, so Durkon Thundershield the dwarven cleric decides to make an appeal to the Mighty Thor in an attempt to save him. But instead of the great and powerful Thor, he instead ends up with a recorded menu of choices at ThorPrayer®. He is trying to get a "Healing Miracle," but when the automated system asks him to enter the first three letters of the name of the miracle, H-E-A gets him the options of "Heathen Smiting" and "Heat Blisters." For each, he is asked to chant "one" if it is correct and chant "two" if it is not correct. The results are funny and twisted, but I won't give them away. Poor Elan … he was better off with the swords stuck in his spleen!

The page says that it is updated every Monday and Thursday. This one is definitely going into my bookmarks.

Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Will this work?

I decided to do the dirty work for Madison:

Dear NewToThis72, I came across your profile today and thought you looked interesting. Are you really into computer games? That's my passion, too! One day, I'll be a game designer. But I'm not there just yet; I'm working at a bookstore at the mall for now. What's your favorite multi-player game?

I'd love to hear from you. Please have a look at my profile and let me know where you'd like to meet!


Thursday, December 9, 2004


He wrote back! He'd like to see her for lunch!

But how do I convince her to do this? I already asked her if she had plans for lunch tomorrow and she said she was free. The problem is, if I tell her that she has a date, she'd probably not agree to go. How do I make this happen... I need to think, fast.

And - come to think of it - I should probably find her a few other matches, just in case. Better safe than sorry. Madison is extremely picky.

Monday, December 13, 2004

End of Men?

Take a look at this article: As Y Chromosome Shrinks, End of Men Pondered. One can only hope, I suppose? The very last thing I'd want in my life right now is a guy. Antonia invited me over to do this online dating thing a few days ago, but... even 20 minutes of that was more than enough for me to validate my impression of men: they're a bunch of needy, impossible, self-important puddles of flesh.

Their profiles all sound the same. They want a woman who would look just as great in a black, sexy little dress as she would in jeans and sneakers. Would Coco Chanel see a contradiction here?

This study is a sign from God.... Check it out!

Some geneticists think the Y chromosome is now little more than a genetic wasteland that will eventually just disappear. If that were to happen, it would certainly spell the end of sexual reproduction.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Good Experiences

Oh! This looks incredibly interesting! A conference on what makes a good experience. About time - how come I didn't know about this before?

The participants are divided into tracks. Some visit a school, others the market, some the street, and some lucky attendees will go to the museum, all on the look-out for good experiences.

I really want to go - think about all the ideas you'll bring home and implement in your designs. Most of our clients at work hire us to design their web catalogs - studying how people buy and salesmen sell at markets might give valuable insights in how interactions on a website could be designed. Perhaps I could get this trip sponsored...

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Men everywhere

What is going on? I'm flabbergasted. I was just posting about wanting to write about my bookstore clerk experiences a few days ago - and suddenly, I'm overwhelmed by strange incidents. Like if I didn't already have enough to write about!

Yesterday, a slightly overweight guy walked up to me right before lunch, with a shy smile, handing me his business card. "I'm Brad," he stuttered. What was I supposed to say? Did I know him? Hmm…

He just stood there, waiting for me to make the next move. "...and..?" I finally asked. "Well, here I am!" he smiled. Yes, indeed he was - but what did he want from me?

He looked like a complete jerk, standing there in his wrinkled business suit, hiding his arms behind his back.

"Can I help you with something?" I said. "Well, I am here for lunch!" He kept smiling as if I knew him. "This is a bookstore," I reminded him, just in case this wasn't already obvious. I've had people ask for underwear here before, so everything is possible. "Aha..." he said, not entirely convinced, though... and wiggled his eyebrows back and forth a few times, nervously. "Is everything OK?" He shuffled some hair away from his face.

"I'm fine!" I insisted. I'd be better if he got the hell out of the store, but... "You know, usually, you get lunch over there, at the Food Court. Or, you could try the California Pizza Kitchen at the end of the mall." I pointed out the door with my finger, turning away from him to show him I was done with the conversation. I mean, f i n i s h e d. Done.

But he didn't move! I turned my back to him and began sorting some books to be re-shelved. Some minutes passed. What did he want from me? Finally, just before I was seriously freaked out, he left, slowly, looking at me as he walked though the door as if I was nuts.

Then today, when I came back from lunch... my store manager handed me another business card. "Frank DeLuca, Research Assistant" it said. "Where did this come from?" I asked. "Some guy was here, asking for you during lunch," she said.

What is this all about!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The End of Men 2!

The news at NPR are really amusing these days. Here is another End of Men article - Making Sperm, No Men Necessary. This study is a gem!

(By the way.... notice that this study is lead by men.... talk about being self destructive!)

Friday, December 17, 2004

I think I'm in trouble...

Oh, what have I done? Madison absolutely hated that guy I sent over to have lunch with her yesterday. She rejected him flat out. But he is still hoping for a second date!


sorry for both of us that things were rather staid yesterday on our meeting. it's too bad, but that's the way it often works, as each person has a lot of getting used to in terms of three-dimensionalizing the other, particularly in a short date with two somewhat shy people. I'm taking a philosophical view on this-- where you see a person for the first time to evaluate them, and it's often very formal, then a visit or two later, you're both comfortable. so i always offer a second date, if you accept. My experience is that it is much more relaxed and fun. Let me know, Madison. I'll drop by the store again.


How pompous! And stuffy.... he must be desperate for attention.

What do I do now? It is all my fault - I set both Madison and this guy up. But for Madison's sake (and mine, if she ever finds out I'm behind this!) - I must get her out of this NOW. Hopefully he'll see the exit sign in this message. I just sent an email:

Fred, thank you for taking the time to see me. But the truth is that there is no chemistry between us. I appreciate that you came to see me, but a second meeting is NOT in our future. I don't want to meet you again, nor do I want to see you at my workplace. Best of luck - I hope you will find the right person for you. Madison.

Clear enough? Phew. Close call.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Making Music

In the new TEKKA, Ed Ward writes about the confrontation between the music industry, the downloaders, and the people who make the music.

This whole file-sharing fracas has been in the news, ever since I got back, and it's good to see someone who doesn't just assume that music is something they make and you buy. It's good, too, that someone understands the world is bigger than the nearest shopping mall.

I especially like his point distinction between kids and connoisseurs. People act as if the everything turns on what Japanese preteens think is kawaii, because all those preteens shop the same way. But it's a big world: even in the village, we used to get CDs and videos. We'd all gather in Kestrel's house and watch Tom Cruise together. And yes, there are a lot of Japanese preteens, but there are a lot of villages in this big old world.

And, however far I went, I never got beyond video night.

That's one big difference, though: we'd watch and listen together. Not many iPods and personal videos in the village.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Forgot the Christmas cards again?

- do not fear. You'll be thrilled to know that finally, thanks to a real artist, sending interactive e-cards won't make people think you're a cheapskate, nor will it make you look cheesy!

Jacquie Lawson has done something incredible. She has created a subscription based e-card service for those in need of a proper card to send for special occasions: there is NO advertising, no promises of freebies or anything else. Don't be fooled by the unclean website design. The cards are delightful - surf through her site and click on the previews of those cards - you'll want to subscribe in a snap!

Especially if you (like me..) haven't done your Christmas card duty...

I'm so curious about her business model. She has managed to give her customer a feeling of something exclusive: her subscription renewal rate is 70 %. That is a high number, given that there are only 47 cards on her site, each card cannot be sent to more than some ten thousand people, and she only adds about 10 new cards every year.

Monday, December 27, 2004


I'm feeling more lonely than usual, this Christmas. I've never celebrated the holidays much in the past, but always welcomed some peaceful days off. This year, I have a suspicion that I am, and have been missing out.

While most people, or so it seems, have been running around decorating their homes with trees and whimsy, I've been walking around the city, reflecting on my past.

Still searching for my daughter. The first step is to find her mother. This hasn't been easy, for embarrassing reasons. The truth is, I knew quite a few women back then. Some may never want speak to me again, but I'm hopeful that they may be able to forgive. I am after all, a changed man.

Christmas may be over soon, but if you're up for it, this site offer some advice for the lonely. Remember your inner core of steel, think happy, be generous. Volunteer to help others.. That's my plan!

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


I got my brother some really cool wireless Playstation controllers for Christmas. I really wanted to get him a copy of Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, but my mum would have a fit... so I got it for myself. That was practically an invitation for him to move in with me... Oy. I should have known better!

There is a great San Andreas video review atGameSpot by Jeff Gerstmann. I've been spending most of my Christmas break on this game... is that bad?

Antonia came by, and for once, she wasn't nagging me to go out with her. She seemed kind of worried, though, just sitting there, watching me play. It was nice to be able to do what I want to do for once, but... honestly, I think something is up. I hope she hasn't gotten herself into any trouble.

Monday, January 3, 2005

Marry Blaire

I followed a link to Marry Blaire and could hardly believe my own eyes. Blaire wants to get married, and asks us all: Do you know my husband?

I wonder, why is Blaire not using an ordinary dating site like the rest of us? Perhaps it is all the attention she is attracting by doing this on her own? She has so much faith in her site that she is even making space for a few other dream guys/girls to ask for love!

Actually.... would Madison like Dave? She certainly fits into what he asks for - a woman with "some kind of education".. (sorry, could not resist!)

Tuesday, January 4, 2005

O'Reilly Emerging Technology

Another conference I'd love to be at... The O'Reilly Emerging Technology conference, March 14-17, 2005, San Diego, CA

The slogan is Remix: your hardware, your software, your media, your world.

Many interesting sessions here. Like Reinventing Radio: Enriching Broadcast with Social Software:

How could you enhance a one-to-many national radio station by building in the many-to-many-style interactions of Flickr or the weblog community? How might lessons from social software further blur the distinction between listeners and broadcasters by pushing interactivity beyond the phone-in or the online poll?

Some of the session doesn't have descriptions yet, but sound fascinating, like this one titled Folksonomy. A quick google search gave me a broad introduction to the term, and I found some weblogs to watch as well:

Thomas Wander Val (who coined the term folksonomy)

Gene Smith (very interesting weblog)

Thursday, January 6, 2005

The Stone Wall

The Stone Wall... this small literary piece resonates with me, somehow. Move your mouse over the little arrow and the sentences wash in like waves over the sand.

"And how his eyes always saw strands of his daughter's hair when he glanced at the yellow sun."

These words.... what would my own daughter's hair remind me of?

Thursday, January 6, 2005

Playboy: The Mansion

- or, The Sims, on Viagra?

I can't say from the previews if this game is going to be any good or not. I know for SURE that there will be some real discussion around Playboy, The Mansion when it is released (January 15th, I think). Just have a look at this. Ironlore, the developers, are putting real people into the game:

Have you ever dreamt of living at the Playboy Mansion, roaming freely in the world's most stylish pad, meeting with celebrities and enjoying the Playboy lifestyle in the place where it all started?

This could be you. If you're willing to look sexy on the web, enter a contest, and you could be the one they'll invite into the game. Their website is full of hopeful, sexy young people. Are they competing with porn sites? You've got to wonder when you come across pictures like this one:

The rules: You've got to be 18. Could they perhaps add another, small rule? Like... keep your panties on, at least?

Are you feeling turned off, or is this just me...

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Keeping track

I'm always buried in email, and all the replies I'm getting from the dating site listings I made for Madison aren't helping!

I made a mailbox just for my life as Madison's matchmaker. Mark Hurst, the GoodExperience guy, has a great report on living with the email torrent.

Come to think of it, perhaps Tinderbox might be a great help in organizing Madison's potential new dates? I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Beacon Street Girls

Are girls aged 9 -13 too old for toys, and too young for boys? Do they need their own stuff? B*tween Productions, Inc thinks so, and launched this interesting Web site to complement their "Beacon Street Girls" books. The Beacon Street Girls are 4 fictional girls from Brookline, a suburb of Boston: Avery, Isabel, Charlotte and Mauve.

I'm so curious about how these characters were developed. Intended to be role models for young girls, they teach "socially responsible values in a delectable hot fudge sundae of fun and friendship." The Web site design is sugar sweet and upbeat in tone. All the characters have their own sections, with a "this week in my life" section. Avery's is a blog, of some sorts. In one post, she asks:

"Question of the week: Why do people call short people cute? It's really annoying. We don't like to be called cute. It makes us feel like windup toys!"

Well, I hate to say it, BUT... aren't these character "cute"? They are all slim, wonderfully dressed, some equipped with almost "adult" jewelry. Katani, at this young age, seems way too vain and writes in her "this week in my life" section that before she goes to bed, she'd like to "try new mud masque". Did her parents buy this stuff for her? Katani even has her own design line named K-girl (Wow. That's some pressure right there, if you're 12. Why don't YOU have your own design line?).

After some browsing around the website, these Pollyanna characters all began seeming like the same person to me. They all have the same smiles, eyes, noses, and faces (although they have different colorings). Sigh.

Actually, it was heart breaking. At the Web site's surface level, none of these characters seem to have any of the problems my peers and I experienced when we grew up. Has the world changed this much? Am I already out of touch..?

In my class room when I was 12, fat Anne wanted to be an opera singer. We all laughed, rolling our eyes. I was skinny and tall: they boys once locked me inside the bathroom when the school bell rang... I could escape through the keyhole, couldn't I? There was Celia, with the black, shiny hair and blue eyes, who grew perfect breasts before any of the rest of us. After Phys Ed classes she'd proudly flaunt them in front of the mirror in the girls wardrobe, shaking them from side to side so we'd have the opportunity to see precisely how big & bouncy they were. Wearing socks and toilet paper in our own (otherwise empty) bras, we publicly adored her and silently hated her. Then there was Lina, who claimed she was born a boy! Could girls be born boys?? We didn't think so. Appalled and disgusted, we kept her at a distance, except when she brought us goodies (which we inhaled and then ditched her). We were mean little bastards and proud of it.

Not exactly hot fudge sundae, or what? Do we need fudge and upbeat to teach young girls values?

I got curious about where these characters came from, and found an online interview with Addie Swartz, the CEO of B*tween Productions. Here is what she said:

We interviewed a healthy cross-section of girls from different socio-economic groups. We met them in after-school programs, at Boys and Girls Club centers, and at soccer games.

They provided great ideas and input about what the characters should be like — even how they should look and dress. School emerged as a common theme among the girls we spoke with. From this field research we created composite characters.

So I have to wonder. Did these characters emerge from a blueprint of the average young American girl's fantasies? From the imaginations (or aspirations?) of their parents? Their teachers? Are they the real young American women to be?

Monday, February 7, 2005


Earlier this morning, I was arranging a table with some new titles near the entrance. I couldn't help but yawning non-stop. Arranging displays isn't really my thing! Besides, the super-bowl party yesterday really knocked me out. Way tense.

So I'm stacking up copies of Gladwell's Blink. Suddenly, this old guy who has been a regular here lately, came up to me. I've been wondering about why he is here so often. It seems like he is searching for something, but doesn't know quite what.

"Now isn't this interesting," he said with a slow, friendly voice, pointing towards the books, "this writer claim that all the time it takes to form an impression of someone, is a blink!" "That's creepy!" I responded. Tilting his head slightly and taking off his glasses, he glanced at me for several seconds. "People aren't always exactly the way the come off, so don't you analyze me, please!" I warned. Lately, I've been having some trouble with customers who seem to know an awful lot about me. Come to think of it, they've all been male? It is downright annoying!

He didn't take my advice. "You seem like a sweet, caring, young girl with many healthy interests? I often see you over in the religious section!" "Well, that's because in the last month, those books have been pulled out over and over again. It's my job to put them back, so no need to make any assumptions. I don't believe!"

"Oh!" he said, with disappointment. "Putting the books back must be a nuisance?"

Sigh! How slow can you be. He himself is the special someone who pulls out all the religious books but never puts them back in place! How could he miss the sarcasm… "You bet! You'd be surprised to know how people treat books in bookstores." I finished the table. Blink all over.

"May I ask you a personal question?" he said, picking up a copy. "Depends on the question." I'm not generally eager to answer any "personal" questions.. But coming from someone his age, at least I wouldn't risk being asked out.

"What's your first impression of me?" he asked, nervously. Something in his voice told me that my answer would be important to him. Why? I didn't really have a clear impression of him at all! What did I think of him?

Friendly? Old-fashioned? Lonely? Aloof? Quirky? Sad?

I didn't want to hurt his feelings. "Friendly," I said with a smile, and told him I had to go and get some more work done. He brought his copy of Blink to cashier and left.

Tuesday, February 8, 2005

Closed doors

I picked up a copy of Malcolm Gladwell's Blink yesterday. Suddenly, standing in the store with this book in my hands, I had this thought... what would my daughter's first impression be of me? Would she reject me? Would she accept me as her father?

I wanted to go and hear his talk at the First Unitarian Church in Harvard Square last evening. But when I arrived, the church doors were closed, and a large, disgruntled crowd were standing outside. "What is going on," I asked someone. "They won't let us in," he said, angrily, "they're fully seated and have no room for us... this is a church, for heavens' sake!"

I'm not sure why I feel such disappointment. The Griffin seemed to think I needed to hear this talk and now I feel that I have lost an opportunity. I must read this book carefully.

Monday, March 21, 2005

New Spring = New Jeans

Crisis! I've been trailing the stores to track down a pair of hot looking jeans for the spring. Nothing fits - it is such a disaster. After desperately eeling into pair number 14 of my trial stack, I finally gave up. "Look, if I bend or sit down, this pair shows my underwear!" I complained to the shop assistant. "Oh, you aren't wearing a pair of hipster thongs or briefs already?" she politely smiled. I'm confused. Hipster what?

Low cut jeans should be priced down - God knows how much fabric they save on revealing people's bellies and cracks. It is a disgusting fashion. In Virginia, law makers wanted to fine the low cut riders:

The bill, which would have slapped a $50 fine on people who wear their pants so low that their underwear is visible in "a lewd or indecent manner", passed the state House on Tuesday but was killed by a Senate committee two days later in a unanimous vote.

Anyway. To avoid the embarrassment of looking horrible while trying out pants in the stores downtown, I went online to search for a better way of finding good jeans. It turns out I'm not the only one having a hard time with this:

"The average woman tries on nine pairs of jeans before finding a pair that fit..."
"For example, one study reported that the average woman in the U.S. tries on 21 pairs of jeans before making a purchase, while men try on an average of two pairs of jeans."
"The average woman tries on 15 pairs of jeans before buying"

I found a great jeans tool at the Interactive Custom Clothes Company. They'll let you design your own jeans, and afterwards, they'll apply your measurements to the model. IC3D guarantee that your pants will fit, or you may return them. Choose your shape, fabric, details.. I love this. No more tiny dressing room or bitchy assistants.