Wednesday, August 18, 2010

5 Things Every Kid should know while trying to pursue happiness

At about the 5th or 6th grade, my daughters had to memorize the Declaration of Independence.

When they got to : " We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness", a long discussion on the "right to Happiness" versus the "right to the pursuit of Happiness" always followed.

It is an important distinction that we as a society grant the right for people to Pursue happiness, but there is no guarantee that you will ever find it. What a shame to waste that right to pursue Happiness by chasing shadows and never finding any of it. Here are 5 things every kid(or the kid in all of us) should remember when they head out on that pursuit.

1) Don't assume you know where you will find happiness. You might have ideas about where your happiness will lie, but it is just as likely that it will surprise you and you will find happiness in unexpected places.

2) Happiness is rarely expensive, hardly ever uses batteries and never,ever fake pees.

3) Happiness is often dirty, creates a mess (please clean up afterward) and sometimes requires odd bits of string and glue.

4) Flitting about like a butterfly or a busy bee can be absorbing, distracting and fun;but sometimes you have to lie still like a snake on a hot afternoon, stare up at the clouds and let the happiness bask into you slowly.

5) You can pursue something all you like, but if you do not clearly and intentionally pay attention to the life around you, it is likely you will never find it- even if it is sitting right in front of you.

“I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Nanny McPhee Returns blogging program, making me eligible to get a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.” [however, the advice is still heart felt and useful]

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Green until death

Marketplace has an article about Resomation-a new treatment for corpses that is being pitched as the green alternative to cremation. By dissolving the body, they are really only accelerating the natural decomposition process, but this is not always the way that people want to think about what happens when they die. It seems that there are some who are also opposed to this alkaline body dissolving solution because they are worried what will happen to the post treatment liquids. We have entered a time when death is so removed from life that even thinking about having to interact with something that has been part of death is frightening.

If we are really worried about the carbon emissions of cremation, perhaps it is time to return to the old tradition of the dead being laid out on a pyre to be consumed by birds. This does get a bit messy( and the smell is not good) so perhaps the use of dermestid beatles would be a cleaner, most clinical way to dispose of cadavers without the use of any energy at all. The resulting clean bones could be ground into bone meal and returned to fertilize the soil.

No matter what path we choose for disposing of our dead loved ones, we would all be better to remember that we are part of the cycle... and there is no life, without death.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Honor over Luxury- the Sheraton Saga Part 1

It started last night when I got a call from Ogre, telling me that he had been walked from the Sheraton. This wouldn't have been any big deal, except for how badly it was handled. Starwood Hotels , via their social media folks at @starwoodbuzz ,has stepped up and done some after the fact attempts to make good so I can not disparage them completely- but the tale is still unfolding and I will let you make your own judgments.
My analysis says that this is a case of corporate corner cutting leading to less than prepared staff who were young and failed to step up to their customer service mission. Luckily, there are heroes- expected and unexpected- as well as buffoons in this tail. I share this, not to reek vengeance but with the very real hope that somehow, some of this might sink in and make the system change. ( yes, I have a thing for windmills, as well).

Following are the things that the Sheraton did very wrong, turning any one of these around could have made for a completely different level of satisfaction than we have right now.

1) Knowing 3 conferences were coming to town at once, Managers should have been assisted to have better backup plans for guests who have to get walked.

2) Even if training is expensive and time consuming, Sheraton staff should be trained and capable of handling stressful situations. I have NO doubt things were crazy. They had to walk over 20 people. They had booking issues with a wedding party. People were traveling for conferences and were cranky. That is a suck situation. Businesses who excel, handle it with grace and calm. Yes, the people around you might be nuts, but you are getting paid to get more polite the crazier they get.

3) Not once was the Sheraton pro-active. They were badly reactive to every situation.
a) they knew they hit full and still had bookings that might come in ( likely for weddings and conferences) but did not make any arrangements with other hotels until the crisis moment was upon them

b) they had multiple people booked from Purdue, but once the first got walked and others were still to arrive, it never occured to them to contact the single business office person and let them know there were any issues for their travelers.

c) they claim that part of this was a misunderstanding and they were still holding a room for Ogre for nights 2 and 3 all along. He left them his cell phone, but they never called to clarify when they realized the point of confusion

d) when my tweets got annoying enough and reached Starwood hotels, they found a room and wanted to make it right, but even then, they waited for him to approach them and ask-- even though his conference was in the Sheraton and they could have easily located him.

e) the Expedia process was beyond annoying, but at least once I reached the right person, they called back several times to see if things were resolved. the Sheraton NEVER called me back, even when they said they would. It was Starwood staff who finally called me the next day.

4) If your IT/booking system is so hard to use that you can not clearly tell ( multiple times by multiple people) if there is a room available or not, you need a new system. It is impossible for service people to do their job well when the systems and processes are an obstacle.

5) when you are apologizing, don't make excuses. Be sincere, don't assume just buying off the guest will make everything OK no matter what.

Here is the unfolding thus far:

Travel arrangements were made for a handful of Purdue University staff by a single business office person via ( which is a subsidiary of, which is owned by Upon arriving at the Sheraton Station, Pittsburgh where the prepaid reservations had been made, Ogre was turned away by management. They informed him that there had been an error with Expedia, they were over booked and there was no room at the Hotel. ( there needs to follow an entire post on this thought, but suffice to say,there is a huge opportunity in the travel business for an enterprising geek who wants to perfect their algorithms for projecting room use).. Truth is, this happens, no hard feelings- the key is in how the Hotel handles it when it does handle. There is a charming hotel in the islands who won my mother's loyalty because they got walked for the first 2 nights of a vacation and the overbooked hotel booked them in a very expensive resort where she was greeted at the door with a champagne glass and lots of care. The overbooked hotel had called ahead and arranged things and there was minimal paperwork they had to do to get settled into a lovely room until the original hotel could handle them again.
Last night was a different story. The Ogre and another guest were sent in a cab to a nearby Quality Inn. The Sheraton manager had not called ahead, and the manager at the Quality Inn basically laughed at them and sent them back. They were then sent to another Sheraton 1.5 hours away. Along the way, the cab driver complained about the 5$ surcharge the hotel claimed for every cab fare they booked and said there was a movement to blacklist them. Arriving at the Sheraton 4points at the airport Ogre was again greeted by a manager who had no idea they were coming, but luckily had a room-- for that one night. But no rooms after that.
In parallel, I was working the system from the angle. They had actually made the booking with the Sheraton (it was guaranteed and we had the booked itinerary number)and technically, they were the ones who should be arguing and making this right. (again an entire other blog post to follow- but suffice to say 100 minutes on the phone (mostly on hold) and several transfers to finally get to someone helpful and useful is NOT a functional system) While waiting in the airport hotel lounge, ogre ran into a very nice gentleman with an iPad who helped him look up other possible hotels for rooms. They were calling around while I remained on hold with the travel specialists and found the Parador Inn- a local BnB- who had a room available. Ogre booked it then and there, just in case. (knowing you will have a place to sleep the next night in a strange city can be re-assuring). Once we got to the correct Expedia agent, and were getting some help they talked to the Sheraton, confirmed that there were no more rooms there at all this week, and arranged for the Sheraton to pay the Parador Inn, since the room was pre-paid. They told me to call the Sheraton to confirm, as they did not believe the Sheraton would call me back. when I did and spoke to the desk agent in charge. I was trying to get confirmation that there really was no other room for the other nights ( before he moved to a hotel 15 minutes in cab away from the conference) and re-assurance for Ogre that things would be calm and handled the next day, she was frustrated with my questions and when I said I just wanted to be sure he would not be sleeping in the streets the next night, cut me off and hung up the phone.
I told the Expedia people that the issue was not yet resolved, got the case number, talked to Ogre a bit then went to bed. about 12 hours later ( not bad, really) I was contacted by @starwoodbuzz asking for details and if they could help. After some DMs, I got a nice call from Starwood, saying that they talked to the general manger, there had been confusion, they DID have a room for him. I was also told that they admitted this had been handled badly ( but it was because they were full and things were crazy, so you have to understand, yes?) and he should expect a little VIP treatment. I text messaged him the news, then gave him a call a bit later to see how he wanted to handle it. At this point, he had already checked into the Parador Inn. He felt like the proprietor had stuck his neck out when no one else would guarantee a room and Ogre said that although the Sheraton had guaranteed him some luxury, honor was more important and it was not fair to take the income away from the small business man because Sheraton was finally starting to behave reasonably. (you see why I love this man?) The Sheraton has agreed to pay for both nights (so far only one has actually been paid- we are waiting tomorrow to make sure the next day authorization shows up) at the local BnB, but this is really no skin off their neck. If they can show he got a room, they can still charge Expedia, who charges Purdue, who uses the federal grant money taxpayers funded to pay Sheraton. This leaves the Sheraton with no losses and no motivation to change how they operate. it also leaves all of us paying for some really crappy service.

I am not sure how I feel toward the Sheraton yet, I DO appreciate the @starwoodbuzz efforts and that they responded to me personally. I do not feel like they learned anything in this incident, or that there will be any reason to believe that my next stay at a Sheraton will be any better. That may be my frustrations still being fresh and coloring my judgment. I am still going to contact Expedia, both because their process sucked and because I need to find out if they are still paying the Sheraton, even after all of this. What do you think - am I over reacting or justified in feeling less than willing to trust Sheraton?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

location, location, location.... NOT

With the glamour of new technology approaching seeming magic, we are being drawn into location applications "just because we can". Foursquare and GoWalla are battling it out in the location tracker app service, but they are just the first big players to the plate... the hoards are following, but more like lemmings than with any sense of value. I contend that the value for end users is not in location, but in action or intent.

Undeniably, the ability to tag into GPS( or other location data) and place yourself on the map is cool. The apps are fun to play for a while. But the value add for the users ends quickly as the newness wears off. I was one of the first on both services in my small town and had fun making marks and then watching as other users came along and found them. And then that got pretty boring. Do I really care who has been to other places? Not really. What I care about, what draws me in-- is what they are doing there.

Certain that there is some use case for a location based social networking app, I have pondered this inside out, but I am stumped. Consider the following:

1) Using it to connect with people at a conference or event. Yeah, not so much. Someone I know checks into a talk or an event? OK. but I want to know what the event is, or WHY they are there before I decide to go. If they are a good enough friend that their mere presence draws me there, we are already text msg, twitter or god forbid calling each other to coordinate.

2) Using it to build an ego presence as a regular at a location and get cool discounts? OK, maybe-- but really- if you are a regular, the store will know. Loyalty cards, etc.. give the same benefits.

3) Using it to find other people who like to go to the same places you do. Nice idea, but doesn't really work that way. Yes, I can check into a location and see who else has... but really have no mechanism for connecting with those people in any meaningful way. Even given that.. is the fact that we shop at the same grocery store going to be a friendship building point-- or the fact that we both love to get the same brand of sauce for our BBQ?

Am I missing something? What really cool use have you fallen in love with a location based social networking application for?

There is a point and a usefulness to location apps- I love being able to log in in a new location and seeing what is nearby. But there are tons of services and applications that allow me to do this ( still waiting for the best of breed to emerge, honestly...) and this does not in any way build a social network. James Burke entranced us all with the fact that the things we do impact others-- and build connections. Connections 1 (5 - Disc Set) While there is amusement and entertainment in the "George Washington slept here" impact, it is short lived. George Washington Slept Here [VHS]
Map overlay does not have lasting human impact.

The one application that I think could come close to this, but has not yet is @getglue. They recently released an iPhone app, but I am waiting for the android version for my Evo. If I could take a picture of the cool new gadget in BestBuy ( or scan the bar code) and see an overlay of reviews from people who bought it/used it ( regardless of location)- that provides real value. And if I buy it and love it, I can choose to connect with other people who loved it as well. Will we become friends? maybe, maybe not- but there is more of a reason to believe that a network of people with shared interests will last. Will you really care who else stood in the same spot as you on some other day 6 months from now?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

How to Google Me and win.

The web is a buzz with rumors and tails of Google's newest foray into social media- rumored to be called "google me". Everyone from The Huffington Post to Gizmodo to CNET and Fox News (really??!!)and the BusinessInsider are spreading the rumor. Speculation on Quoro is rampant. Everyone is talking about how it is going to be modeled after Facebook, involving the already pretty well ignored Google Profile page.
Let's face it, if you really love Facebook- you are not leaving. But there are plenty of people who really don't want all the games and apps and money-making annoyances.. they are just there because that is where everyone else is and the only place to find out what they are up to. Unless, of course, all of your friends are on Twitter.. or Flickr... or FriendFeed... or....

The truth is, where Google could make a huge win is modeling their new application into an experiment into virtual - non walled- social networking. What if theywere not being cute, but were being literal with the use of Google Me ( like this movie by Jim Killian in 20007 )

If you Google Me, here is what you get. Notice it contains information about me on Twitter, YouTube, GetGlue, 12Seconds, AmieStreet, geeks.parillo, this Blog, a defunct LiveJournal, and uStream- just on the first page of results. But this is not ( gasp) my only internet incarnation. Use other searches and you find information about me on Facebook, LinkedIn and various professional interactions.

{Google take note: What we do NOT want is an automagic mashing of all the connections and distant hooks about all of our information smashed all together to easily share with everyone. NOT. Repeat, This WILL get you sued. Kthanx }

But what if Google actually learned a lesson from Buzz? What if the infrastructure they are building is a giant permissions/authorization system that allows me to easily create groups, and easily assign contacts to one or more groups, and then to easily assign information feeds from and about me to different groups.And let me hook up all of those incarnations of myself to one big soup.. then let the permissions sort it out when viewed. I don't care if my family sees everything (well, OK maybe not my zivity feeds...), but my work contacts do not need to see my silly family stuff on Facebook, nor my personal Twitter feed. Make this infinitely tuneable and fine- grainable ( gamer friends? semantics fans?) and I promise you a geek-gasm. Better yet, allow me to set group level permissions to certain groups, then semantically tag all that info and allow people who subscribe to me set the tags/keywords they are interested in. A colleague, but only want to see my tech reviews? A friend, but interested in both kids and drinking stories from twitter? A family member, but only want tweet and facebook feeds about family, not about tech? My mind starts to whirl and I realize the potential geek-gasm could be earth shaking. I have seen the future and I want it. ( if it turns out this is NOT what Google is doing with Google Me, could someone else build it for me, please??)

No longer would people have to join the same network I am on to see what I am doing or saying... all they have to do is subscribe to my feed and I decide which permissions they are allowed.

Now how long before all those other social media sites stop making their pages searchable??

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Funny Kind of Brotherhood

We were standing out in the back lot of RadioRadio, and Peter Rinaldi was keeping an eye on the generator repair on the oneEskimO tour bus to see if the power was going to be back on. "We have been back and forth across the country several times during this past year of being here", he explained, "and we have started to figure out places we like to be or go in each city- including where the Whole Foods stores are. We just went shopping this afternoon and got food to last us the next couple of days- and now the generator went out." This happened to them at least once before, and they lost the entire contents of the tour bus fridge, so he was relieved when their driver was able to make repairs. ( Guys, I am starting to think that you could cut a product placement deal with Whole Foods- an onstage thanks for feeding us and a link from your website... for free or reduced price groceries along the road...Heck, maybe even a record signing in a Whole Foods store?? ;-0 )

Peter returned back to my question. After reading their blog entry on the origin of encores, and knowing that in some part of their brain they thought they were silly, I wondered how and when they decided to go back on for an encore as they had tonight. "We don't often do encores, but when we do it is different every time- then you have to wonder, did we wait too long-- have they [the audience] lost interest? do they really want an encore or are they just being polite?". I for one, was glad they had done the encore tonight... I was just not ready for the dreamy trip that the concert had been to be over.

( their encore number)

Talk turned to life on the road and being away from home for a year now. "Last summer, we were touring with Tori Amos, and that was amazing. We did not want to leave that tour- we got treated very nicely. We had a bus and everything. After that, we were traveling in a series of 15 passenger vans with all of our stuff piled on the top and me driving. It is hard, you do a gig, then you have to drive for hours, get to a little hotel somewhere crash for a few hours and then get up and do interviews. We are really glad people want to have us- the opportunity is amazing. Growing up in a small town outside of Perth, I never would have dreamed that I would be here. Places like this were just places in the movies. What people don't realize is that we play for an hour or so every night, and that is the easy part- that's what we all love, that is why we are here. Then the other 23 hours you are living in really close quarters with 6 guys- who don't always have all the best habits. We are lucky that we all get on really well. It's a funny kind of brotherhood, really. We all understand each other and when you are having a bad day and just need some space the other people can read you-- you don't have to tell them to leave you alone. That makes it much easier." I asked if it was nice to be back on a bus and getting some sleep again. "The bus is great, because you have your own little space, and you have a driver so you get mo-re rest, which helps. But we are also dependent on the venue for showers. Some venues have showers, some don't. This was a no shower venue- and then we woke up this morning and had a TV interview to do. Some days are just like that."

They may not have had a shower, but they were still looking great during the concert. I streamed some of it live on my Evo via uStream and you can see the recordings.

Fans new and old will be glad to hear that they are working on new music while they tour. "It's hard, while you are touring, but we are doing as much as we can. We have been living with this music for a long time. The first single is just out, and we are glad to have that success. We are also ready to start thinking about something new." As we talked about the animation of the album ( available on iTunes), Peter commented that everyone is asking what will be next. "We don't know what we will do next, but it will be something different, not just more of the same." I am sure that whatever they do, it will be completely amazing.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

OneEskimO show

In just a couple of hours, I will be at radioradio for the oneEskimO show, courtesy of One2One networks.

The show starts at 9PM EDT, and if all goes well, you can follow long here live on ustream from my evo.

See you there.

Apple's Parenting Habits Breed Incompetent Kids

There is nothing more frustrating than having some pretty good brains in a room beating around an interesting idea and then stopping a hair short of the truth and leaving it hanging in either conspiracy theory or coincidence.

It was so frustrating this morning that I found myself yelling at my radio as the podcast played ( good thing 26 was quiet and nearly empty this morning). I was listening to the most recent "Cranky Geeks" episode, and they were discussing Rob Enderle's article ( Rob was on the show, btw) about how it seemed an odd almost conspiracy that ex-Apple employees were causing the ruin of many Apple competitors. He calls it Apple's Fifth Column with a bit of tongue in cheek. He does end the column with the observation that this is most likely not true, but just a case of companies needing someone in charge to keep them from doing stupid things. In the show discussion, Rik Myslewski points out that this is generally the CEO.Although Adam Curry is pushing for conspiracy theories ( of course-- and I say that lovingly, I enjoy NoAgenda, btw) The discussion ends in chuckles and they move on before they get to the important analysis.

The truth is, in most really large companies, smart, proficient CEOs surround themselves with executives and charge those executives to fill top management positions with people who are good at making decisions. In most large companies, there are too many ( and perhaps too disparate or too complex) decisions that need to be made for a single person to have control of all of them. You need bright, independently thinking, creative, insightful execs who are good at business- even if it is a tech company- to stay at the front of the pack once you hit a certain size.

Apple does not do this. Steve surrounds himself with technically great people who will do what he tells them too without too much argument, and does not care if they understand why. It always feels ( from the outside) like he runs the company like a helicopter parent. The people following his directions are smart and from the outside appear brilliant, get hired by other companies hungry for Apple brilliance- and they fail-- often spectacularly, as Rob points out in his article- as they try to repeat some of the things they saw Steve doing, but never really understood.

A good company, like a good parent, helps its employees "grow-up" to the best of their capabilities. This sometimes means giving people the chance to make mistakes, the chance to fail and putting more energy into it than if you had just done it yourself-- much like teaching your kid how to do laundry. Companies who just do the laundry for their employees because it is easier and safer that way end up with employees like those college kids who ruin entire wardrobes their first week at college because they have no clue what they are doing.

John? Next time-- push discussions like this all the way to their natural end--- the conclusions are much more interesting than conspiracy or Occam's Razor.

Monday, June 7, 2010

HTC Evo Photo comparison

I have been playing around with the back camera ( 8 Megapixel, dual flash) on my Evo. So far, I have been pretty impressed with what it can do, considering it is a cell phone camera. Low light is a challenge, but the flash does well for objects not too far away. Shade gives a little focal issue,
From Drop Box
but it is so much better than the camera on my BB ( which got used a LOT) that I am stunned and more than pleased. Our household camera is a Kodak Z950, which is a good little all purpose point and shoot for us. the other night, we were goofing around on the deck, waiting for a storm to roll in and so I decided to do some side by side shoots for comparison. All of the pictures are untouched.

This is the shot from the Kodak, no flash at all from across the deck toward the fireplace under construction. You can see it was pretty dark out.
From DeckStormPics

The Evo with Flash manages to light up the area pretty well, but the flash causes some pretty bad washout.

From EvoDeckStormPics

Flash on the Kodak caused less washout.
From DeckStormPics

Rearranging the lantern the boys had inside the fireplace gave better clarity with the Evo,
From EvoDeckStormPics
and even gave pretty good results when zoomed all the way in as far as the Evo could:
From EvoDeckStormPics

The Zoom on the Evo still can not touch that of the Kodak ( no surprise), so it will not be completely replacing our family camera.

From DeckStormPics

I was pleasantly surprised that the Evo did not give me a complete blur when I shot the boys climbing out of the fireplace from across the deck with only the flash:

From EvoDeckStormPics

All in all, don't be surprised to see me whip out my cell phone and grab a quick pic.

[video test and review soon to follow]

One Eskimo Frenzy

I have to be honest, I had never heard of One Eskimo when I got the offer to review their album for One2One. But I clicked through the link, watched the "Kandi" video and was intrigued. Then they gave away Mother's Day Downloads of "Amazing" for free. That was the song that hooked me. I like it so much, on a whim I sent one to my mom as well. She is no spring chicken, but immediately asked for more. When the album got here, it got downloaded onto the household music center iPod, and my teenaged daughters have been grooving on it as well. A three generational crowd pleaser is always a hit in my books!. A light pop/soul blend ( 'it's kinda 70's', my mom said) this is a great pick me up, but has lyrics that are way more than bubblegum. I love this TV Guide interview ( ugh.. TV Guide,sorry) where they talk about the passion for writing music and how they mix audio and visual into an experience. if you are lucky enough to see them live this summer when they tour, please please share and let us know if it is as cool as it sounds ( besides, who can resist that gorgeous British accent?? ;-) )

You can still get a free copy of Astronauts by sharing a Tweet: Free Download of “Astronauts” via Twitter:, or just check out their YouTube channel and if you want to join us in the groove- splurge for the deluxe version of the album on iTunes.

I have to run into the city tomorrow with my daughter and this album will absolutely be on the playlist. OneEskimo will stay one of my summer fav's for 2010.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Wise words

Thoughts for my daughter upon seeing her find her sexy.
Dear daughter on the cusp of womanhood, remember that feeling you had earlier tonight, when you stood on stage? That sensation of your body finding it's sexy groove, but your insides scared and fearing that it is a lie?that odd feeling of acting hot and sexy and being surprised at other people's reactions, sure you were just acting? Hold onto that feeling. Keep on acting, even though you are not on stage. It's what most everyone else is doing as well. Enjoy the feeling and ignore the uncertainties inside. Don't let it stop you, or make you afraid to reach and grow. Everyone has that feeling, it will continue until you are about 40 and your insides catch up with your outside attitude .

-- Post From My iPhone

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Planting Season Begins

Although I had previously planted a row of spinach and some peas, today the planting season started full force. We gathered the troops and planted the followin

4.5 12' rows of Kennebec potato
3 12' rows of Purple Haze potato
3 12' rows of Yukon gold potato
2 10' rows of Red Norland potato ( planted closer for early potato)
2 12' rows of yellow onion
10 10' rows of yellow/white/red onions
1 20' row green beans
3 8' rows of peas
1 20' row of snow peas ( makes a second row)
1 8' row of spinach ( makes a second row)
1 8' row of rainbow carrots
2 8' rows kohlrabi
16 cloves of garlic

This is just the beginning... as the season progresses, there will be tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, squash, pumpkins, chard, lettuce, herbs, kale and other deliciousness.

It is so nice to have the growing season started again...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

@foursquare (or @gowalla ??) meet @gencon

Gencon is August 5- 8 in Indianapolis. For those of you who do not know, Gencon Indy is a huge ( tens of thousands) gaming convention that runs for 4 days. There are thousands of events, and hundreds of vendors and companies there. Almost everyone there is a geek.

It would seem to be the perfect opportunity to really test out some very cool locations features in Foursquare and/or GoWalla (sorry GoWalla until you actually have a BB application and not just a mobile website, Foursquare will be my preference)- or even for some very smart, ambitious startup to make a mark.

Here are some of my top ideas on cool, useful things could be done at an event like Gencon:

1. Check in to vendor booth in the great hall. Allow vendors to set such that visitor #x ( 100, 200, 300, etc) each day gets a coupon or a special free giveaway

2. Check in to actual events/rooms for gaming sessions so your friends know how to find you. Let vendors running events see who came and send out coupons later to those who checked in.

3. Check in to actual events/rooms for gaming sessions and receive instant freebies of some sort of point/weapon/bonus for your character to use during that session.

4. Check in to actual events/rooms for gaming sessions and receive special promo material at the end of the event from the vendor running it.

5. Check in @ parties and general open events ( costume contest, after hours, etc..) to help promote them ( think SXSW style checkins) and/or receive special badges.

6. Check in #true Dungeon to get special extra tokens

7. Check in @ local restaurants ,hotels, etc.. as a Gencon attendee for special deals.

For any location based service, there are 10s of thousand of geeky gamers decending on Indianapolis in a few months-- how will you leverage this event and offer great services beyond new badges for the users??

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Tech review: mifi, my new best friend

I have had my mifi for 2 months now and I love having my own portable wifi in my pocket. The only improvement I would make would be to increase the battery life , but since I have a power inverter permanently wired into my van and can recharge as I drive, this is less of an issue. For those not blessed with handy husbands, a car charger would be a great new accesory. Moving to a standard miniA USB charge interface would be even more efficient.

How do I love my mifi? Let me name the ways:

1) It allowed me to stay connected to the Internet and the office, even while onsite with a customer who had locked down Internet without a guestnet.

2) It has given me and extra 2 hours of working web time on days I ride to the office. 2-3 days per week I ride along with my husband to spend the day working in the office instead of from my home office. Although I can do email on my blackberry, any type of web research, document work or design review were too painful. With my mifi and my iPod touch, I have significantly increased the productivity of those 90 minute drives.

3) It allows me and the kids to continue playing games on the iPod touch on the road during the long visitation switch drive, and other road trips

4) It let me keep working at the office the other day, even when our local network went down. When your only phone is VOIP, the network is critical.

I find that I use my mifi almost every day, how do you use yours?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Brief and shining moments of joy

This morning at the tail end of dawn, I was driving my daughter to practise. As we looked to the west, an immense moon hung barely above the horizon. It stretched high into the sky and glowed luminously, making it suddenly apparent why centuries of people were convinced it was a source of magic. In the next 20 seconds, something even more amazing happened - the moon disappeared before our eyes. It was not stolen by aliens nor did it suddenly dip below the horizon. It was merely a matter of the sun rising just enough to flood the sky with light and drown out the moonlight, making it in essence invisible.

As I sat in the car, staring at the same spot in the sky, I was reminded that like the moon that was still invisibly hanging above the horizon, there are often moments of beauty and joy in our life that can too easily get washed out by the bright glaring noise of everyday life.

Take a moment, look carefully and see the joy and amazement that pops up unexpectedly in your day today. What did you see that surprised or delighted you?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Slime Mold Splendor- System inspirations

As a grad student, I was TA for a developmental biology class (it was, for a while, my PhD target). Almost all of the aspects of the lab excited and fascinated me, but I was especially taken by the slime mold. It remains one of my favorite organisms ever.

Back in 2000, when I first saw Javaspaces demonstrated at the JavaOne conference, I immediately got excited and started babbling to fellow geeks about how the ultimate design for a self discovery middleware/messaging system would be modeled after slime mold. They are the perfect model for small message/self discovery systems. They mostly looked at me like I was slightly insane.

I love that others are now using slime mold as a model for networks, and have mathematically mapped the algorithms of slime mold network forming. Time for us to realize that we are not always discovering brand new things, but are just describing things that much simpler organisms discovered millenia ago. I think I want that algorithm... there is a next generation self assembling messaging system buried in it.

What biolgical inspirations drive your designs??

Friday, January 15, 2010

Science Suffers while Salaries are Safe??

When I am considering supporting any organization, one of the first things I want to know is what their overhead percentage is. In other words, for every dollar I donate, how much is going to the actual work that organization does and how much is paying for mail, computers and the Director's salary. There is huge market pressure to get these overhead costs as low as possible in every non-profit organization out there. If I get an answer back from a charity that says they are "wasting" more than 20-25% of my donation on overhead, I walk away. Lots of people do.
Our government does not have the same sense of fiscal responsibility that we as individuals do. The federal and state governments frequently sponsor research at universities. This is a very good thing. Universities have something called indirect costs, which they deduct from incoming grants (grants less than 20-25K are usually immune). Indirect costs are the same thing as overhead. This is money the tax payers are donating for scientific research in the form of grants that never actually goes to research. Indirect Costs are not new. They were an issue in the 80s when I was in grad school, and probably before that. Time magazine even wrote an expose on indirect costs back in 1991. If the indirect costs were reasonable, I would have no complaint. Every group has to pay some basic bills. But the indirect costs at universities ranges from 50-70%!!
That means if a brilliant researcher is donated 1 million dollars by the tax payers in the form of an NSF grant, he will actually receive only a half a million dollars or less. This is NOT the sort of organization I would normally donate money to. Agencies can refuse to pay indirect costs, and most universities have policies in place for how to deal with this. ( you can see an example for the University of California).
In this time of fiscal trouble, it seems wrong to me that our tax dollars are willingly being donated not to the source we thought they were, but to pay the 150-400K salaries of deans and others at Universities.
If we agree as a nation that we need to subsidize Public Institutions of Higher Education, I am in agreement with that- and we do. But there needs to be transparency in how and where that money is being spent.

If universities are facing increasing deficits because of decreasing enrollment and higher costs, they should be getting creative about cost cutting and savings, not sitting down and negotiating higher Indirect Cost rates with Federal funding agencies, like many recently have. Scientific research and innovation are the things that will continue to make us strong- the government should be looking for ways to funnel more money in that direction, not less.