Tuesday, May 24, 2005

San Francisco dispatch

Weather's perfect. Food's outrageously good. What all this I hear about fog? What fog?

Dinner last night at John's Grill with hubby's biz associates was unexpectedly way-gone fun. We met up with Mr. & Mrs. Actuary (We are Mr. & Mrs. Underwriter) and talked about cars, kids, movies, Internet and wine.

Bring more wine.

Waiter, we're out of wine.

Apparently our hitting it off was conspicuous to the rest of the dinner's group. I worry that we weren't engaged with everyone else (all really nice folks, too). But then again, the sound level in these situations is often so much that you'd only be looking at moving lips and smiling faces. You nod, you think you agree. You may have just laughed at an unfunny joke about your boss -- you don't really know.

When are there going to be restaurants that offer "quiet zones" for those of us with mild hearing loss?

Fun to go to a city far from home and meet people who feel so familiar. Do you have tales like that?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Too good -- bravo, N & O

Check out the interactive game on the News & Observer's site -- "Governor Easley's Wide Ride." It's the most fun when you crash the car. Make sure your speakers are on.

Monday, May 16, 2005

It's a twister (it's the news)

Thankfully, the news landscape has been free of the wild speculation about the release of the results of the Shiavo autopsy. The medical examiner handling the case says it will be a few more weeks before he releases his report -- sure to be a bestseller.

We have a runaway bride to obsess over, a runaway plane trickling into restricted Washington D.C. airspace and then there's Dave Chappelle, the comic whose standup success caused him to freak out, stand up and run away to South Africa. Time magazine was so skeptical of Chappelle's disappearing act, they sent a crew to take pictures of him on the continent. He had to get away (from his $50 million contract) because , he says, he was worried when he saw a white member of his crew laughing. Maybe his comedy was "making the wrong people laugh," he said.

Maybe it's making the wrong guy rich.

Meanwhile, in case it matters, there's Iraq. My son's girlfriend called this evening. She had a question -- how to do a search online to find our whether or not her high school friend Joel, now a 2nd Lt. in the 11th Infantry, has been injured or killed. He's not answering her emails, she said, and his unit has been his be a car bomb once already. They sent him back in for more.

We talked about that -- about where to look. We found an informative site, a disturbing one. The domain says it all -- icasualties.org. It compiles the data released daily by the government into a searchable database.

It's not a government site, it is a private site. A quiet patriotic act.

As for Joel, he's not listed.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The future of open source media

Take a look at this eight minute flash presentation - a fascinating "review" of future events in media consolidation via open source journalism. It gets beyond the view of blogging's new-gadget status and starts to get to the profit and global benefit vision. Some ideas (fully automated editing and gatekeeping) are pretty out there, but so was the notion of unlimited online storage and pushbutton free publishing tools just over a decade ago when I was graduating from the J-school at UNC-CH.

In '94, the debate was whether or not online newspapers might wipe out print and the prevailing thought (correct) was that they would not. That didn't (and doesn't) stop some papers from digging in and resisting (Herald-Sun). Even now, only a handful of papers like the News & Observer and the Greensboro News & Record have had the vision to embrace blogging as a means to connect better with readers -- a means to expand the paper's value, not cry about the potential "threat" that blogging might present.

When I see some of these traditionally syndicated editorialists waving their arms and whining that bloggers "aren't even trained as journalists!" I have to laugh at their fear of competition. If these pajama clad writers are such nitwits, why would you even acknowledge they're on the landscape?

Because they can see that lines are blurring and that it will be the marketplace of ideas and not the easy division of have and have-not that will drive who gets read and who gets ignored. That won't bode well for the lazy, the rich and those who have held power so long that they've forgotten they weren't born with it. I haven't yet seen a woman or a minority writer complaining about open source journalism. Coincidence? I think not.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Had your fill, buster? Birth control is next

This week shapes up to be quite a showdown on the Hill as Republicans make the grab for the juduciary. Make no mistake, this is all about laying the foundation for the next Supreme appointment, which will very likely be forthcoming before 2008. The neocons wants an anti-abortion zealot in that slot. The ultimate goal is not just to reverse Roe v. Wade, it is to reverse Griswold v. Connnecticut --- to eliminate women's right to birth control.

Don't believe it? Show me a single instance where a so-called "right-to-life" advocate has said that couples should avoid unwanted pregnancy through the practice of birth control. I'm leaving out unmarried people -- there's no way they'd advocate anything but the pure Christian life for them (no sex whatsoever). No, no ... let's be realistic -- I'm talking young married couple who waited until their honeymoon to consummate their relationship. Can she go on the pill? Can they use a condom to avoid an unwanted pregnancy?

Hell, no.

"I don't think Christians should use birth control. You consummate your marriage as often as you like -- and if you have babies, you have babies." Randall Terry, Operation Rescue

Think it's just the flakes?
From Catholic.com:
Contraception is wrong because it’s a deliberate violation of the design God built into the human race, often referred to as "natural law." The natural law purpose of sex is procreation. The pleasure that sexual intercourse provides is an additional blessing from God, intended to offer the possibility of new life while strengthening the bond of intimacy, respect, and love between husband and wife. The loving environment this bond creates is the perfect setting for nurturing children. But sexual pleasure within marriage becomes unnatural, and even harmful to the spouses, when it is used in a way that deliberately excludes the basic purpose of sex, which is procreation. God’s gift of the sex act, along with its pleasure and intimacy, must not be abused by deliberately frustrating its natural end—procreation.

Funny, I always thought of orgasm as the "natural end" of marriage's most intimate act and it certainly is bad to frustrate that. Maybe it's all a big misunderstanding.

Friday, May 06, 2005

The N&O blogs on

The News & Observer has joined the blogosphere, launching its own blogs earlier this week. Way Cool, Most Excellent. More proof yet that the Paxton-$un is marching into the future while looking backward (they're in the newspaper business and cannot compete with a 24/7 TV-world news cycle according to to Editor Bob Ashley).

Yah, whatever.

The N&O seems to "get" that future of opinion leadership (look it up, Bob ... that's part of the newspaper business) is developing in blogging. Becoming more interactive with readers and moving away from talking down to them is where the future lies.

And boy, oh boy, Durham could really use some interactive opinion leadership right now. The freakin' school district is in a near-nuclear state of meltdown. Meetings that devolve into shouting matches and arrests because the school board has totally lost control of itself. We're left to imagine what a good forum for discussion of issues might provide --- the Herald-Sun is asleep at the switch. No money in sticking their necks out, so they'll hang on the sidelines, watch and cover the train wreck and sell as much popcorn as they can.

Wouldn't it be awesome if they'd do some in-depth coverage of the issues these school critics are bringing about? Wouldn't it be amazing if they, along with Channel 11, sponsored a town hall meeting with ground rules so that the community had outlets for discussion other than blwoing up school board meetings?


Monday, May 02, 2005

And thanks for all the fish

Oh, how we've missed Arthur Dent at my house. Run, don't walk, to go see The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It's a large popcorn-and-Rainettes worthy romp with great special effects that are fun but don't overwhelm the story. (Rare find)

We were surprised to see a thin crowd on Saturday night (@ Timberlyne) but the movie is playing on so many screens, maybe they've managed to saturate the market. More space for us to go back and ride through once more.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Runaway Story

Jennifer Wilbanks, the story goes, needed some time to herself. What she got was, well, the opposite.

Rather than confront her issues with a wedding larger than Charles & Camilla's, rather than embarass herslef and or Mommy & Daddy, she instead took what she thought was an easy way out and hopped a Greyhound for Vegas (of all places). Okay, the woman has issues.

But what gets lost, it seems to me, is this: what excuse do the Deluth cops have? They come out on Wednesday or Thursday with this big pronoucement -- this is now a criminal investigation. Why? What evidence could they possibly have had? With all the focus on this distraught young woman's perpetrating a hoax, how much attention is paid to the cops not holding the line on this simple, apparently self-evident fact -- there was no crime. This wasn't a child who disappeared, it was a woman who went jogging -- an experienced runner. No amber alert, no faked ransom note, no apparent attempt to totally disappear, just an ordinary person who freaked.

Theory on dumb assumption: Rich white people don't run away, so something must have happened. Had Wilbanks been black and lower middle class, there would be no dragnet, her family would have been told that this was a missing person and nothing more.

Wilbanks bought her bus ticket in advance -- she must have. To create the illusion, she left her wallet and credit cards at home ... along with her photo ID, so no flying. The cops can say that's evidence of a crime, I say it's evidence of stupidity. Further proof -- she ended her silence ona Friday night/Saturday morning, leading to wall-to-wall CNN coverage all day Saturday -- an utterly inexcusable treatment of a case of this nature.