Creating the Chicknorati

Congrats to the Bloghercon women – Eleanor, Elisa and Lisa – on getting Bloghercon mentioned on CNN. This conference might just get more of us chicks on the Technorati Top 100.

So I’ve been thinking about what I want out of Bloghercon and things that have bothered me about past conferences I’ve attended. So here’s my 2 cents on potential potholes on the road to greatness for Bloghercon.

  1. Focus on a theme – Look at this as the first conference in a series of many. You don’t have to tackle all the possible topics this time. Nine months from now you can have another one.
  2. Have a goal – Ties in with #1. What do you want people to walk away with? For this year, what do you want to solve or at least start a substantial discussion that continues in the blogosphere after the conference?
  3. Get relevant people to speak – The worst thing at conferences that I’ve been to is that a big name speaks, but they don’t have a direct relationship to what the conference is about or only have a minimal idea of what it’s about.
  4. Tracks – Have various tracks related to the overall theme that people can follow. Might also be a good idea to have people sign up ahead of time for which seminars or workshops they’ll be attending so you know you have enough room.
  5. Seminars v. workshops – While I’m thinking about it, seminars are where you’d have a panel discussion and workshops are where you’d actually have people working in groups or doing exercises that relate to blogging. Some conferences don’t understand this – or maybe it’s the speakers.
  6. Keep it small – 250-300 – Faces become familiar at this size and you might just be able to meet half the people. Next year you can open it up to more people.
  7. Two days – To create meaningful connections you need more than just a day, and it’s easy for people to give up just the weekend. Maybe throw an event the Friday night to get people geared up for the next day. Also it’s easier for people to take a day or two off of work on either side if they need to fly in. And one more for good luck.
  8. Don’t be stereotypically girly – Super political correctness, everyone must feel included, hippie-dippiness leads to violations of #1 – way too many tangents form. Don’t get me wrong, everyone should be able to contribute. Whether it’s by Q&A, a back channel or a social event. And I’ve been known to participate in hippie-dippy Phishhead chanting drum circles where everyone spouts their feelings, but this is not the conference for that. But don’t overcompensate for being “not a man” either. (Yes I have issues. Four years at a women’s college and then being in tech may do that do you.)

My web hosting service has locked me out of my cgi-bin so you can’t make comments on my site yet, but hopefully this weekend I’ll get it up and running. (Elisa had said she wanted to make a comment on my last Bloghercon entry – sorry- soon!)



The Birds and the Bees – Will Our Children Get the Metaphor?

For those who want to capitalize on possibly catastrophe, you might want to stock up on almond futures (if such a thing exists). Turns out there’s a nasty little Asian mite that has made it’s way to America and is sucking all our honey bees to death.

Turns out that 80% of the world’s almond crop is grown in California where it’s turning into “vampire mite” ground zero. If you haven’t brushed up on your ag-science lately, if there aren’t honey bees to pollenate the crops they won’t produce fruit. And what’s going to possibly happen to almonds will also happen to lemons, oranges, apples and anything else that needs a bee to reproduce.

Given the media’s penchant toward blowing things out of proportion I’m surprised we haven’t heard more about the bees dying, give that if there are no bees, no fruit, seed for birds to spread and you end up with very malnourished humans.


Tehran – East or West?

The other day my friend Farshad emailed me a link to photos of the city where he spent the first years of his life and where his extended family still lives, Tehran. I have to say I was a bit embarrassed about how ignorant I was of it.

I have to confess, I thought it would look like Baghdad – low-rise buildings the color of desert sand that blend into the background scenery. I couldn’t have been more wrong. In winter, Tehran looks more like Vancouver than Dubai. The skyscrapers look so Western, and the low-rise buildings look like the ornate 1800s office buildings in downtown New York City.

What’s surprising is how in the past 100 years most of the old architecture in Tehran has been replaced with modern designs. Here in California people get their panties in a twist if anyone threatens to bulldoze a building that’s from the 1800s. Think about Iran. They’ve been building since 1000 BC or more and have ancient architecture that’s 100 times more beautiful than an old craftsmen-style home.

Before we possibly go and start blowing things up and ruining things, check out the photos of Tehran.

Iran is on my list of places to visit. It looks so beautiful and all the Persians that I have met are some of the most caring people that I have ever known.


News Junkie Gone Mad

I tried to cut myself off. It lasted a day. I can’t take it anymore! I need a the ultimate information manager. Does it even exist?

Give me something that will do all of these thing: be an rss reader, manage my email, a newsreader for my newsgroup, tell me if my favorite websites are updated, update me on threads in my Orkut communities and let me post to it, tell me if my friends’ calendars have changed for Friday night, navigate through friends’ foaf, and basically make it so that I don’t have to waste my time checking to see if there’s new information in my favorite places. Oh and it should recommend things that I might be interested in, whether its something new at Amazon, an event on Craigslist, or a new website. Maybe what I really want is a TiVo for the web.

Perhaps I’m just lazy. Or perhaps I’m tired of the fact that all these communities, newsreaders, webmails, and sites on the web have become little islands unto themselves with no active connection to the outside world, and I, the cybertraveller, have to paddle out to them just to find out what’s new on each island. It’s not efficient, and I’d rather be spending my time writing.

I know that there are all these separate projects going on right now that solve some of my complaints here, but I want them to all come together and create the mother of all information managers. However, they can’t agree on a standard for some of this stuff, so how would they ever agree to work together?


A Protest of One

In this week’s Metro, the Fly had a brief write up about someone who’s placing hoods on the Rodin statues at Stanford and writing “Rumsfeld was here” in chalk on the ground. A project design grad student, Steve Bishop, was able to snaps some photos of the hooded Rodin statues before the Cantor Arts Center museum staff dehooded them. My favorite quote from the article is from Bishop, “To me, that’s kind of ironic to worry about the statues and not the people at Abu Gharib.”

Sadly I have not heard about this protest in any of the media around here besides some footnote in the local papers. It would be interesting if any of the mainstream media picked this up. However, they’ve all moved on to a new controversial topic: the price of gas.

Picture of the hooded Rodin statues at Stanford
Link to Article about the Protest of One – you have to scroll to the bottom of the page.


Summer’s Here and Everyone’s Busy

This was probably one of the first weekends that the question, “What should we do?” came up. It was more like “What shouldn’t we do?” It was as if all the events organizers were trying to keep people from going to their little festivals. NextFest takes the cake on that one, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

Saturday I lucked out in the morning and got all the frames I could possibly need and then some at the annual Mountain View Community Yard Sale and City-Wide Garage Sale where you can rent space at the local park to sell your crap or stay at your home with your crap in your driveway. And the town advertises and has a lovely little map to all the garage sales along with a list of the crap being sold at each home. I wish more towns would run days like this. Unfortunately I did not find suitable patio furniture or a desk.

After buying crap, we went into town and looked at artsy crap. Well, not all of it was crap. There were a number of outstanding photographers,. of course I can’t remember their names, as well as silver and goldsmiths. And while browsing for crap you can munch on food from local restaurants and do some wine and beer sampling. The alcohol bit was limited to two stands along with the selection.

Then I went and looked for more crap at IKEA and Home Depot come home only with wicker chairs and paint.

Sunday brought more crap – the techie kind. We arrived at NextFest after sitting and dodging traffic due to the Bay to Breakers Race. Both Brendon and I forgot that it was this past weekend, so when we followed the directions that the good people at NextFest put on their site it brought us directly into the path of the race. You’d think that the event organizers would have had a clue and routed people arriving from the Peninsula around it via 280, which by the way would have been a better route anyway. Well, their lack of understanding of traffic extended into the venue itself. There was no sense of flow to the space so people got backed up between displays and you could necessarily see all the exhibits unless you elbowed, punched and pushed your way through to them.

I saw most of the displays except half of the health exhibits and the special shows on the stage. Next year they need a bigger main stage seating area so everyone in attendance can see the shows, not just the first 100 people or so. Some of the cool crap, in my opinion, that we saw was

  • electric paper – the venue had free standing signs throughout that were hooked up to a wireless next work, so they could change the signs to announce upcoming shows. Pretty neat.
  • HP e-book – Still not a replacement for a book but getting there. I asked about the whole eye fatigue issue and the HP guy said that they’re working on it. They scanned pages from an old paperback to mimic the texture of paper. Cool, but I’m still not giving up books.
  • vocalization software that sings – didn’t really hear it but Brendon said that it sounded good but still a bit artifical. It sang the national anthem at the Giants-Phillies game and people booed. Booing the national anthem…treason!
  • Smart Car sports car – it has more trunk space than the original smart car, seats only two people, and is cute!
  • Mindball game – I don’t know the proper name for it however it’s a pretty sweet game you play on a table and you control the 1 inch ball’s movement with your mind. Don’t ask me how it works, probably has to do with brain wave activity, but the kids loved. And some obnoxious socially inept Geeks who pushed literally kids out of the way to use it. I saw that happen way too many times at various displays.

Crappy techie crap – there wasn’t any crappy tech that I could see, but there was stuff that just didn’t wow me. One that I thought that’s had technology that could be put to better use was the Long Distance Dodge Ball. The whole purpose of dodge ball is inflict pain on your opponents and to make you run out of fear of getting hit. Instead you’re looking at a screen of the people on the other side and trying to hit their images. People already have issues with video games desensitizing kids to violence. Imagine what’s going to happen with this one.

Weird crap – genetically engineered tobacco – the new wacky tobacky? It would be an interesting way to keep a lot of people employed if people ever stopped smoking. The idea is that the biotech tobacco would easily produce ingredients for pharmaceuticals that otherwise would cost a lot of money to produce. But it rubbed me the wrong way. Probably for the same reason that other GMOs do. Since it’s being grown in tobacco, is it possible that it would contaminate the drugs with nicotine and cause many people to get green tobacco sickness? That’s what happens to you when you’ve never picked tobacco before and you absorb too much nicotine through you skin. Maybe I just need to look into it more, or perhaps I have an valid concern. Dunno.

I would go to NextFest next year if a) I don’t go on the same day as Bay to Breakers, b) they do something to improve the layout and people traffic and c) they put in more seating and better scheduling for the main stage.


This is Vegas – Part 2

Now enough with the complaining about how Vegas didn’t live up to my expectations, and on with all the fun I had.

We arrive on Friday evening at the airport where you can get your bags, get your car and get your room all in one place. I highly recommend checking in at the airport if you’re staying at the MGM Grand, especially if you’re arriving for the weekend along with a thousand other people. You get all the paperwork done before you leave the airport and don’t have to deal with tipping 5 different bell hops when you arrive at the hotel, especially when you only have a backpack or carry-on bags.

Then we were off to the Paris to engorge ourselves on good food and decadent desserts. The portions were HUGE! I ordered the fish. Yes, I know, fish in the middle of a desert? Anyway it was good but it was like they gave me one whole side of the halibut. Luckily we only ordered one side dish. And the dessert. The dessert! Rich, creamy chocolate mousse – yum, yum-yum-yum. I highly recommend the deserts. You’re in Vegas. No one will bat an eye if you order a dinner consisting of various desserts.

So then it was on to “O”. If you try to book tickets and they only have partial view seats, take them. They’re cheap and you don’t miss anything. You mentally block out the railing once the show begins. I’m a Cirque du Soleil fan, so I loved the show. I’ve read reviews by some that they didn’t like it because it was too much of a circus. That is what it’s supposed to be like. So if you don’t like circuses or you can’t get into “artsy-fartsy” stuff, then skip it.

Skip the Venetian shopping and head straight to the Forum. I didn’t see much that I would like to browse at the Venetian, except for Sephora located on the Strip not in the hotel. The Forum has more stores that you would actually buy things at, unlike the Venetian, which is home to the infamous gaudy emporium where Michael Jackson went on a shopping spree. And the Forum has a Shūz store (a shoe store for those who haven’t been to Europe) and a Stuart Weitzman store (the Tiffany of shoes) – enough said.

I loved the people watching you can do too. Sit at the bar in the casino and watch the vacant faces of slot machine gamblers comparing those to the expressions of those at the tables. And while walking along the Strip we heard some of the most precious comments, such as the baby boomer taking a photo of the Siegfried & Roy statue saying “Can’t stand that they’re gay, but that’s the way it works.” Then he went on to say how much he loved the show. Vegas is a land of contrasts.

Vegas is all about hyperbole – in it’s architecture, layout, people and reputation. I wouldn’t have it any other way.


This is Vegas – Part 1

What comes to mind when you think of Vegas? The Strip with it’s parade of casinos, bright lights, the clang of slot machines, high rollers flanked by half clad women, drunken monkey business, girly shows, escorts and Elvis ? That’s what I always thought of Vegas. Or you think of new Vegas with it’s extreme makeover face lift that caters to families with it’s kids clubs, circuses, family shows, and carnival-esque attractions. Well, it doesn’t quite live up to either well-crafted image.

Brendon and I headed down to Vegas for the Cirque du Soleil “O” show, a Phish concert, and a weekend of debauchery; well as much as two straight, married kids can have without getting divorced or thrown in jail. So you can guess we scratched half of those old Vegas clichés off the list, and went with the new Vegas to-do list. You don’t have to sin to enjoy Vegas nowadays, right? I think the jury is still out on that one.

I will have to say right off the bat that Vegas needs to learn something from Disney. Everyone who visits Disney gets a moment with Mickey. Now who is Vegas’ equivalent to Mickey? Elvis. Some would argue that it’s showgirl, a celebrity sighting or winning money, but I prefer Elvis. And I did not have my Elvis moment. First of all the only “Elvis” that Brendon and I saw was this atrocious looking, dancing Asian mannequin dressed up as “Elvis the Mason” way out at the Hoover Dam. Second of all, the only other Elvis to be seen were people on the strip wearing the fake Elvis sunglasses/sideburns get up. I guess if I want to have my Elvis moment I need to plan my next trip during the Elvis convention. But did have a celebrity moment – Jessica Simpson was shopping at Bebe in the Venetian.

Another misconception that I had from all the movies and CSI was that the hotels/casinos would be right on top of each other. One or two are right next to each other, but the rest are pretty spaced out and require about a 5 minute walk to get from one to the next. So it was no surprise to see the enormously long queues for taxis outside every hotel. But being the city girl that I am, I wasn’t going to take a taxi just to get to a few blocks down the road. And I have the gaping red blisters to prove it.

As for the smut and family atmospheres, there was neither extreme and only a smattering of each. Most of the smut was confined to the escort flyers that were being passed out on the street corners and the random escort billboard. And the family atmosphere was almost tongue in cheek. You could go shopping, but majority of the stores are for adults. And most likely the other mall patrons are drunk and sucking back a margarita. Or you could go to the circus, but even that is on too late and is a bit too sophisticated for kids to enjoy. God help the parent that takes their teenager to Zumanity. But with the kids clubs aside, all other kid attractions like the arcades and roller coasters are really for the child inside the adult. They have to be, otherwise they’d be unused the majority of the time.

So this dichotomy in perception and reality of Vegas raises the question for me, are we as writers required to portray a setting exactly as it is, or are we allowed the creative freedom to warp it into what we want it to be? You could argue it either way. There are excellent creative works out there based in settings where the author has never been, and I’m not talking about speculative fiction here. And you know that those authors had to be very creative to imagine what their setting is like. But to some extent it has to be real. You can’t have the Eiffel Tower next door to the Louvre (spelling of this museum by the way is not in the MSWord dictionary). But if I need to have a boulangerie just down the road from either of those places then I should have the creative freedom to do so. I suppose it all depends on what your main goal is – inform or entertain. You can have a mix of both, should have a mix of both, but in the end a work of fiction has to entertain in order to be successful.

So I suppose one thing that I got out of Vegas, seeing as I didn’t win any money, is that I should try to remain true to the atmosphere or wherever I’m setting my story. And when going to a city that’s been built up in my mind by movies and television, I should take it all in with a grain of salt. Because by the time I get around to visiting, it sure isn’t going to be anything like what I thought it was going to be.

Next time I’m there I’ll be armed with sneakers to avoid major blisters from all the walking. I’ll check out a “tribute show” to get my moment with Elvis. And I’ll take in a traditional Vegas show.

Now what did I like about Vegas? That’s for my next blog entry.



A man’s home is his castle. Well now he (or she) can have their very own dragon to guard it. We’re not talking genetically modified Kimono Dragons. We’re talking robot dragons. The catch? The price per dragon is a mere �1.98 million JPY each. That’s about $17,811.85 USD.

Seems like the Jetson’s future of having a domestic robot may be getting closer thanks to Japan. Banryu was created by the Tmsuk corporations and is backed by Sanyo. I stumbled across an article about Banryu on today. So I went and checked out the Banryu website. Seems this little guy can detect if someone is in your home or if it’s on fire and it will even ring your cell phone to tell you.

Now I know nothing about robots, but this little guy looks cool and cute in an alien sort of way. The small egg-shaped head comes complete with a cute little Pokemon-esque horn. And fans of Trading Spaces will be happy to hear that it comes in a variety of colors to match your home decor. walking-banryu.jpgThere’s lots of cool pictures on the site (where I got these), including ones of Banryu in motion. But I would like to see more product specs and information in English as I am not lucky enough to speak or read Japanese.


Apple in Computer History

Brendon and I checked out the panel discussion/presentation The Macintosh Marketing Story: Fact and Fiction, 20 Years Later.

Remember when the Mac came out? I do. And I was only 7.

I remember watching this rather scary commercial for me that started off in what must have been Russia or at least East Germany. A true child of Reagan’s 80s. I hasdno idea what 1984 meant to adults, so it must have had something to do with the “bad” people in the world. Then enters this Olympic champion (the Olympics were that summer in LA), who came in and showed those “bad” people what she thought of them. And of course subsequently overthrew them, saved the world, etc. At 7, I wanted to be that woman! And of course, my parents went out and got me an Apple soon after. I was going to save the world!

So needless to say, I was intrigued to find out about the people behind this commercial that made such an impression on me at such a young age. It was pretty cool to hear the stories behind the scene. And yes, there was a reason the commercial was scary. The skinhead-looking men in the commercial, were actual skinheads from London. And one of the guys from the marketing agency hid on the set from them. I don’t blame him.

Soon the evening turned into a sort of reunion for the original Mac team. The people who developed the GUI were there, the people who worked on the operating system, the people who worked the long hours to get this little Macintosh thing off the ground were there. You hear about Jobs, but these are the people who made it happen. Yeah, Jobs could have gotten other people on the team, but would the product have been the same? Probably not.

Well, I just sat back and listened to all the personal stories from the team. I sure hope they’re writing them all down. It could help the next team of innovators who inevitably will face similar challenges that these people did.

If you have a chance, Brendon has pictures of the original Macintosh team on his site.

I never did get to ask why they chose a woman to hurl the sledge hammer. I’m sure glad they did.