Saturday, September 29, 2007


Late to the party, I am only just getting into podcasts...

But now I'm hooked - NPR, BBC, CBC, and of course independant podcasters make up 90% of my media consumption now. My TV is becoming dusty and unused- the DVD and cd players cough up dustbunnies when opened, but the computer is happy- warm and humming away...

I like the idea that anyone can be a broadcaster from the comfort of their own living room. I especially like the fact the NPR broadcasts in Second Life - a stroke of brilliance that blurs the boundaries between virtual and "real life" experience. I wonder if this is beyond what early Internet theorists like Sherry Turkle dreamed: a public media broadcasting on and offline with listeners choosing their preferred way of engagement. Responding to a phone-in radio show can be made in one of three ways, the traditional phone, the ubiquitous email, or now, via the Second Life home of NPR - and while you're at it, pick up an NPR T-shirt for your avatar!

Land based radio may be on the outs, internet radio royalties are unfortunately sky high- a move that favors the large media conglomerates that own most of the land based stations, and a move that threatens public and democratic media. But I for one, hope that podcasts in "real life" and in platforms like Second life remain (and they can, with a little help from the creative commons). It is technologies like these that fuel the workings of the elusive global citizen, and will shift the balance of power in the culture industry.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Customer Service

After waiting patiently in a big box store for at least 30 minutes without seeing hide nor hair of a service person... After being told repeatedly by people that obviously worked in the store "sorry, but this isn't my department, someone will be along to help you"... After finally being helped by a bored and seemingly humourless customer service rep, who seemed to do the absolute minimum required to help, I am left wondering, oh customer service, where have you gone?

I can see it dwindling in the place I work too, where coworkers go out of their way to say "I'm not on client service today, I can't help people" "It's not my day" or "it's not my job". I see the frustrated look on the client's face - they only came here to ask for what we said we would provide. They're not asking us to go out of our way to help them - and in fact, we're getting paid TO help them, so why do we act like it's such an inconvenience???

I'm not sure if this is a symptom of an individualistic world, where we can tune others out using our technologies, or whether this is a symptom of the commodification of everything, or whether it's merely apathy, but I do think that if we fail to service our customers, we will lose them. They will find what they want elsewhere for a better price (probably the Internet, because if they're not getting service ANYWAY, they might as well shop where there isn't any) and we stand to lose our reason d'etre. And so customer service apathy is a dangerous trap to fall into.

It sounds cheesy, but if we simply CARE for other people in small ways on a day to day basis, then customer service isn't even an issue. I challenge everyone to care a little more today - at work or elsewhere, and see what comes of it.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

What we become


"What we become depends on what we read after all of the professors have finished with us. The greatest university of all is a collection of books".
-Thomas Carlyle (1795 - 1881)

Yes, Thomas Carlyle, that's certainly true, but more than what we read, what we become depends on what we do after all our teachers have finished with us. You can read the best, most informative, most important books in the world, just as you can have the best, most informative, most important teacher in your field, and you may still become nothing of consequence. Similarly, you may have the worst mentor in the world, and you can move beyond it (though it is often incredibly difficult). While Carlyle's self study may be an important first step in many fields, reading is not doing, and what we become has more to do with what we do with our book collection after we've read it.

Another quarrel - most books do not teach critical thinking skills. So a collection of books in lieu of a university, while seeming like a good idea on the surface, would be an education built on pretty shabby foundations if the books in the collection are say, trashy romance novels. Sometimes we need guidance to know which books to include in the collection, or how to read with a critical eye.

Still, however, a good mentor does not have to come from a University - If we're lucky perhaps, what we'll become is decent mentors for others, then our quotes can show up on someone else's website one day.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Never Give Up


After Fred Astaire's first screen test, the memo from the testing director of MGM, dated 1933, read, "Can't act. Can't sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little." He kept that memo over the fire place in his Beverly Hills home. Astaire once observed that "when you're experimenting, you have to try so many things before you choose what you want, that you may go days getting nothing but exhaustion." And here is the reward for perseverance: "The higher up you go, the more mistakes you are allowed. Right at the top, if you make enough of them, it's considered to be your style."

Some days it feels as though nothing is easy. It feels as though you have to fight with a million more talented, richer, more attractive, more graceful people for a little bit of recognition. Some days it feels like nothing matters. Even if you can eke out a little slice of the proverbial pie, it couldn't possible EVER be worth the amount of work you put into it. Nobody cares, nobody notices the work you do, so you might as well do the bare minimum, right?

I think some people actually live by that philosophy, but not the really memorable people. Great thinkers, great athletes, memorable performers, and other mentionables perhaps aren't really that different than 85-90% of the population except for in one thing. They never gave up, even when they were told repeatedly to.

Sometimes it takes a million tries to get something right. Sometimes you have to write a million posts before someone reads your blog.

I can't dance, and I'll probably never be Fred Astaire, but I can learn efficacy, and I can remind myself to keep going, even when my confidence is at its lowest. Because it's never worth doing only the bare minimum, even in a world where nobody else will notice the difference.

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Being Busy vs. Leisure Time

I've noticed that by and large, my friends fall under one of two categories: There are those who are always busy, seem to be taking on all kinds of new projects all the time, and doing each project to the best of their abilities, and there are those who spend every night and weekend hanging out, having leisure time, and wonder why the other ones are never around.

I don't feel like I'm in any position to pass judgment on either choice. The first category is an interesting, yet very stressful way to live. It can also be lonely. If you opt for new experiences over spending time with those who love you, you may find yourself without people to spend time with. On the other hand, the second choice, while more relaxing, seems to offer less in the way of living. Life is so short, that if you spend too much time just hanging out, you may miss the opportunity to try one of the "one day I want to..."s on your life list.

Personally, I fall into the first category. I like to be busy and usually am. In my case this results in the occasional feeling of exhaustion, burnout, periodic loneliness, and anger when I take on more than I should and lash out at those around me. I feel I gain from my choice, a richer life, more interesting experiences, a chance to continually grow, and opportunities to discover myself. Some would argue with me on this last point though, saying that I will only be able to fully know myself when I stop being busy, and start staying still. Maybe they're right, but if staying still doesn't feel like "me", am I not neglecting my own needs by doing it?

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Who am I writing for?

Many new bloggers, graduate students, unpublished authors, and seasoned professional writers alike sometimes wonder "who am I writing for"? Myself, being in the first two categories, and formerly the third, often wonder who I am writing for with a sort of desperation. Nobody's is reading what I write, so my writing is a pointless act of self-delusion. Other times, even if there is a suspected audience, we think that if we can only figure out who that audience is and what they want, then we can write the perfect piece and finally be the accomplished writers we know we can be. One of my undergraduate writing professors always belabored the point "know your audience". She had the entire class convinced that knowing the audience was the secret to professional writing.

While my professor was not wrong in her advice, and while knowing your audience can be helpful especially in business writing, William Zinsser in his book On Writing Well suggests a different approach:

"You are writing for yourself. Don't try to visualize the great mass audience. There is no such audience - every reader is a different person. Don't try to guess what sort of thing editors want to publish, or what you think the country is in a mood to read. Editors and readers don't know what they want to read until they read it" (p.25)

If you are writing for yourself, it's easy to know your audience. If you're writing for yourself, it's easier to stay motivated to practice your craft and write every day. Even if your feedburner says, as mine always does: 0 readers.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Without Google, I May Cease to Exist...

Google runs my life now... If I think about it, there are several very good reasons why without Google I would cease to exist. I will explain them here:

1) I Blog, therefore I am. Google owns Blogger. And since I write my thoughts here in order to achieve personal verification, and self actualization, without Blogger I may be swallowed by the whole of my own significance. I would certainly disappear from Netspace.

2)My Calendar is completely managed by Google Calendar. Again, without the reassurance of daily life events (work, leisure, personal development, etc) I cannot be sure that I would be doing anything at all. Google Calendar validates my existence by providing me with places I need to be, and in so doing reinforces the fact that I do, actually exist.

3)Google Desktop provides me with a link to the outside world. This proves to me that the world exists, and I by proxy, exist in it. With the drag of my mouse I find out what the weather is doing, what the headlines are, and whether my favorite blog has been updated. Since these feeds are always changing, I am fairly confident that the world and I still exist.

4)I am searchable. It's not easy, my blog is nowhere near the top of the ranks or anything, but technically, I am searchable. This beyond everything else proves I must exist, though without it I cannot be so sure of my own existence.

Think about it...Would you exist without Google? Myspace? Facebook? Without them, how do you know you're not just a figment of your own (or someone else's) imagination?

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Does the Internet Facilitate Democracy?

Well... In my humble opinion yes, and no.

All the buzz in the blogosphere of late about unfair funding practices for elections shows that technology helps people do 2 things: 1. access previously unaccessible information and 2. talk about it with each other. Since access to information and dialog are essential for a working democracy, technology does make a difference, does help citizens create a more democratic society.

but on the other hand, who owns the technological infrastructure anyway? Large corporate interests. And technology is only as good as the coding behind it. In the book CODE, Lawrence Lessig reminds us that if corporate and government interests want to code Internet software for commercial gain, then they will. And coding for commercial gain is often at odds with coding for the citizenry to engage in democratic dialog. Besides, judging by the results of the last US election, fear is a much more powerful motivator than rational dialog and access to information when it comes to making an important decision like who to nominate King for four years.

So technology has the potential to aid democracy, but only people can live up to the potential. Back to square one?

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Friday, September 07, 2007

The Relationship End User Agreement

I think relationships should have end user agreements. What would yours look like if you valued yourself enough to have one? What would your potential mate have to do, or accept before he or she would be allowed to download your application? How would your dating life change if, even secretly and in principle only, you had a list of conditions that had to be met before you would let a person move past the thirty day trial period?

I think mine would go something like this:



1.Definitions: "Woman" means the girl whose pants you're looking to get into, silly.

2.Licenses: If you obtained the woman with her explicit consent, and subject to your compliance with the terms of this agreement (this "Agreement"), including the restrictions in Section 2.2, You are granted an exclusive license to Date this woman in the manner described in the documentation as follows.

2.1 General Use: You may take this woman out for dinner, movies, or coffee or be taken out for same by this woman. You may also engage in certain acts of physical intimacy, cuddling, and emotional support.

2.2 Limitations: You may NOT date any other woman concurrently, or otherwise abuse the trust placed upon you while in this relationship. You may NOT physically, psychologically or emotionally harm the woman. You may NOT engage in passive aggressive guilt trips nor side against this woman in an argument with your mother. Failure to comply with these limitations will result in immediate revoking of the dating contract and possible legal action or psychological trauma

If you have any questions regarding this Agreement or if you wish to request any information from the woman please use the address and contact information included with this product or via the web at to contact the dating office serving your jurisdiction


Of course it's a joke, and everything is exaggerated for comedic effect, but it's worth thinking about. What are you not willing to compromise on in your relationships with others. And if you find something that you are currently compromising on when you really shouldn't be, what can you do to change it?

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The Blank Page

Nothing is quite so intimidating as the blank page (or in this case, the blank screen).
As I stare at my blog, or my paper, willing the words to appear. I type one line, then erase it and start again. Type two lines, erase at least one. Any writer knows the pain of birthing a written work, like when it takes you three hours to write on paragraph that you later edit out because it didn't fit anyway.

But somehow, miraculously, I always end up with something as long as I keep on writing. It may not be the best most genius written work that I or the world has ever seen, but it's far better than the blank page.

And as long as I keep writing, I know that slowly I'm getting better at it. Perfection is the enemy of done. If I try to do everything (including writing) perfectly then I will be paralyzed into never doing anything. So just keep going, despite the awkward sentences, the dearth of ideas, or the three hour paragraph. And maybe by doing so I can finally make peace with the blank page and the promises it offers.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Searchable Face(book)

So Facebook has opened its doors to Google. Fairly soon people will be able to search for other people on Facebook without being a member of the social networking site. The walled garden has a door - or at least a window.

I wonder, will this make Facebook more like Myspace? A site where people go to connect with people they don't yet know (or might never know) in "real life"? So far, Facebook seems to meet Zuckerberg's original goal: connect people who already know each other in real life, and strengthen offline social connection. Something like telephone 2.0. Myspace, on the other hand, was originally designed as a way for musicians to network with each other, and market themselves on the web. A way for people to meet people that they didn't or perhaps could never meet in person.

Now that Facebook has teamed up with Google, it is worth considering whether this will change the ways people use this social networking software. Will an expanded search result in a greater use of Facebook for business networking? Will there be more spam? Will this expand people's Facebook network? Probably all these things are true. I'll see you there.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Surrealism of Everyday life

Found out from BoingBoing today (my favorite alternative news source) a woman at an art gallery came face to muscle (?) with her own heart. She'd had a heart transplant and donated her former, now it's part of an educational art exhibit.

This leaves me pondering the surrealism of everyday life.

This link to mortality, this representation of life and love and humanity, sitting in a box as part of an art exhibit. What makes biology art. Is it enough that an art piece make people think, or must it be more to be classified as art? If it must be more then what makes a useless (diseased) muscle art? If all that is required of art is that it make people think, what is the difference between art and education?

Is a heart in a box a biology class, or an art exhibit?

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Monday, September 03, 2007

Holy Patriarchy Batman!

Ok... you just have to laugh. I came across this link via BoingBoing and it was an interesting exploration of the Male Gaze.

The women who are subjects of the photography are treated almost as children. The weaker, even lesser sex who must be spoiled, handled with kid gloves, and definitely not taken seriously. This is not a photographers how-to guide but a magazine by men, for men, about such topics as how to take pictures of a woman in a phone book without her noticing; how to pick up beautiful female hitch-hikers, and my favorite, how to deal with a "honey bear" without getting your cigarettes (or pants) stolen.

The photos themselves are great, and in their own way revealing as well.

As a smart woman, who also poses for the occasional pinup pic, I for one am glad to not be pigeon-holed into the soft porn "glamour" persona of yesteryear. As much as I understand that we still have a long way to go in fighting for women's rights, sometimes it's also good to remember how far we've come.

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Welcome Politicians to the 21st Century

According to the BBC, Australian Prime Minister John Howard has posted a video on YouTube asking people not to join in violent protests during the Apec summit in Sydney.

The BBC article describes Prime Minister Howard as a politician from the black and white television age. Well it seems he just entered the 21st Century with a bang.

What do I think? Well aside from the whether or not people should be able to freely protest the Apec summit, I think this is an interesting case study of social networks and the Internet.

John Howard is either a very smart leader, or (possibly more likely) he has hired the right advisors. He knows that many of the protesters will be organizing and promoting their causes using the Internet as a tool, so he is using the same tool to try to appeal to them. Whether or not his appeal is successful, I think he is right to use the Internet, maybe this means he is trying to understand the people he helps govern.

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Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Six Million Dollar Blog

It seems we've lost all our readers, and I understand why. Heck, I've even lost Nigel (haha) and since we've been so negligent at updating I get the moving on thing.

So now here comes the long uphill battle of building a blog again.

Reminder: post every day, write about what you are passionate about, keep posting, build links...

keep posting, write what you are passionate about, build links...

If you build it they will come?

Seth Godin reminds us to keep things short and thought provoking. Too long and you'll just lose people.

What am I passionate about? Arts, Performance, Activism and Communication.
So for my part, I'll try to focus on those, and tag posts accordingly. Why rebuild it unless you can rebuild it (we have the technology: faster, better, the six million dollar blog)

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

Back at it, then


Break for school
Graduate with a BA
Get accepted to MA program with scholarship
Marriage breaks up
Meet someone else
Contemplate doing PhD
Write thesis on Social Networks (including blogging)

I guess that means it's time to revive the old blog.

I used to think that nobody was interested in reading what I had to say. Now I believe that a great many people are not only interested in what I have to say, but they could potentially benefit from what I have to share with the world.

Nigel, if you are still out there, here is a message into the ether for you...
Let's keep going - start afresh, something new and better than before

The loft awaits