December 10, 2005

Joe Lieberman, Still an Odious Fundamentalist Toad

A couple years ago, I got some flack for labeling Senator Joseph Lieberman, a "Democrat" from Connecticut, as an odious fundamentalist toad. Well, as this NY Times article reports, Sen. Lieberman continues to justify my claim. The article discusses Lieberman's support for Our Dear President, with his comment "We undermine the president's credibility at our nation's peril."

And I suspect Lieberman is such a toad because of his fundamentalist religious views, running seemingly as deep as Bush's, or Blair's. Fundamentalism, *of any stripe*, is dangerous. Sadly, Connecticutans seem to like him, so we'll have to continue to put up with his presence on the national stage.

Posted by peterme at 11:04 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 09, 2005

TiVo - Pioneer with a bullet in its back?

Matt has posted an excellent interview he conducted with Michael Cronan, famed designer, and primary force behind TiVo brand identity. Much of the discussion revolves around the name "TiVo," and the perfectness, the inevitability of that name.

And I thought -- could a name be too perfect? Is TiVo *so natural* a word for what the service does, that it is too easy to not think of as a specific brand or product, and just moves immediately into genericism (like Kleenex?)? Is it important, when naming companies, to not come up with too good a name? Especially for a first-mover company that's providing a service that never existed before? Because if that name goes generic, it's easy to neglect the company that made it.

Posted by peterme at 02:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Gay cowboys - old hat!

So, with the release of BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN comes an awareness of gay cowboys. I grappled with gay cowboys about 10 years ago, when I worked at the Voyager Company. We released a CD-ROM called "Who Built America?" essentially a history textbook come alive with audio, video, photos, diaries, and the like.

"Who Built America?" was bundled with Apple computers sold to schools, and with good reason -- it showed off the multimedia capabilities of the machines. However, what some schools realized, and what some parents' groups didn't like, was that the CD-ROM also dealt honestly with American history -- including illegal abortions and, as the disc called it, "male-to-male intimacy in the west." And these stories are coming from the turn of the century, not the mid-60s.

The ensuing controversy lead to Apple dropping the disc, which lead to a shitstorm on Usenet -- in large part spurred by me (I was pretty much the only Usenet savvy employee at the time.)

It even made the Wall Street Journal.

My favorite Voyager t-shirt is the one we printed up in the face of this controversy, as we were headed to the American Booksellers Association conference that year. It was a screenshot from the CD-ROM, showing the "male-to-male intimacy in the west" entry.

Because of my own naivete, it surprised me that others were surprised by this. I mean, yeah, cowboys are the picture of American manliness, but, come on -- men, alone on the frontier, wearing chaps!

Anyway, the CD-ROM is still worth owning, and you can buy it online. I can't speak to the quality of the second CD-ROM (1914-1946), but it's probably worth a shot.

Posted by peterme at 11:51 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Google and their knowledge workers

So, I finally got around to ready, "Google: Ten Golden Rules," about how that company hires and manages their employees, and I came away from it unimpressed, and, even, feeling a little icky.

Their rules basically made sense to me (Hire By Committee, Pack Them In, Make Coordination Easy, etc. etc) with the one exception of "Strive to reach consensus." I mean, I guess it's an okay thing to strive for, but trying too hard to reach consensus gets in the way of progress.

Anyway, that's not what bugged me. What bugged me was the tone of the article, written by a CEO, and Berkeley professor. It has a remarkable Us and Them sentiment. At the beginning of the article, they reduce their entire workforce to the class of "knowledge workers," and then, for much of the article, Google employees are referred to as "them" and "their." It struck me as a remarkably distant approach, as if Eric and Hal were talking about how they care and feed the ants in their ant farm.

Another, and possibly related thought, is why are so many afraid of Google when they've demonstrated competence in only three areas (search, maps, and webmail)?

Posted by peterme at 07:53 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 04, 2005

Random acts

The dog attack that I just wrote about is the second significant random act to happen to me in the last 6 months, along with the car accident.

What both incidents made clear is, well, the role that happenstance plays in our lives, and how all your plans can so easily get shot to hell in a heartbeat. In both instances, I was on my way to do other things, and had planned out, well, at least the rest of the day. And in both instances, everything pretty much had to stop and that specific thing needed attending to.

It reminds me of that remarkable story-within-a-story in The Maltese Falcon, of the man Flitcraft who nearly dies from a fallen beam, and is spurred to start a new life (which ends up looking just like his old life). It's a brilliant and bizarre detour in the novel, a long passage in an otherwise highly efficient narrative that serves almost as a primer on existentialism.

Anyway, such dramatic incidents always bring the immediate, the present, to snap into focus. It demonstrates just how tenuous all our plans really are.

Posted by peterme at 06:14 PM | TrackBack

Diary entry: Today I was attacked by a dog.

I am fine.

Stacy and I were at the Alameda dog park, and wandered over to a clutch of dogs and their people. Among them was a German shepherd with a tennis ball in his mouth. He came over with it, so I bent down and held my hand out. He backed away, a little nervous, and then, well, got aggressive. He decided he didn't like me, so, um, started attacking, tearing through my sweatshirt. I tried to stand stock still, in hopes that he would just back off, but this dog was quite insistent. So I kept turning my back to him -- I know how claw marks on my back. He then came around my front, and I ended up putting my arm in his way -- so I got a bite on my wrist.

It was a little like this, though I didn't have a big puffy thing on my arm:

Public domain photo from here. (Get yourself a real job, Gary.)

During this ordeal, I kept shouting at the dog's owner, "Control your fucking dog!" But she was at a total loss. It's clear she is simply unable to control this dog. Thankfully, the other people around were able to get the dog under control.

The wrist bite is a small bite -- no puncture, no real bleeding. Just some bruising and swelling.

Stacy talked to the dog's owner afterward, and found out that a) this dog has had problems and b) the dog's owner is clearly out of her league with this hound. German's are bred as attack dogs, and this one performed that service well. Funny, I've been licked and loved by plenty of pit bulls at dog parks and on walks... This, my first attack, came from a German.

A brief trip to the "urgent care" ward at Kaiser lead to a prescription of antibiotics (just in case) and a tetanus shot.

What I learned: be respectful of Germans, and, hey, don't look them in the eye. Also, with Germans, it is good to put something in their mouths. If you don't have a stick, it does turn out that your arm is the next best thing. You just don't want them on your face and neck.

Posted by peterme at 06:01 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack


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Joe Lieberman, Still an Odious Fundamentalist Toad
TiVo - Pioneer with a bullet in its back?
Gay cowboys - old hat!
Google and their knowledge workers
Random acts
Diary entry: Today I was attacked by a dog.
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