Sunday, December 21, 2008

It was a very good year...for buzzwords

"Picking out political buzzwords from 2008 is like shooting moose in a pigpen," say Mark Leibovich and Grant Barrett, authors of The Buzzwords of 2008.

They note, for example, that "the lifespan of Hillary Clinton’s campaign 'meta-narrative' could be charted entirely in buzzwords and catch-phrases — 'inevitability' to 'Clinton fatigue' to 'Obamamania' to 'he can’t win' to 'team of rivals.'

What really makes this New York Times piece work are the illustrations -- the font and graphics created by Jessica Hische. They're fabulous.

My favorites: Greyjing, recessionista, edupunk, Plutoid and TBTF ("Too Big To Fail," replete with cracks). Which ones do you like best?

Tags: nytimes, buzzwords, graphics, typeface, design, slang

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A new business model?

  • "It’s official: The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News, will become the first major U.S. newspapers to cease seven-day home delivery."

    • Hello to three-day delivery: The JOA will instead focus on Thursday and Friday delivery of both papers and Sunday delivery of the Free Press only. Those days are the most lucrative for advertising and have often been considered in the newspaper world as the “money” days for both sales and circulation.
    • Clearly one of the biggest design challenges is to try to continue serving current single copy readers and perhaps even improve their experiences, while also appealing to long-time home delivery customers and trying to serve their needs.
    • "We’ll have to look at ways to maximize reader connections through all existing and newly developing channels (ex: Kindle, iPhone, etc and whatever comes next). That is definitely part of our planning."
    • Some critics have panned the process with IDEO, worrying that the design firm does not completely understand how to work with the news media. 
    • The influential designer Juan Antonio Giner of Innovation called it “the way to death” in a posting last week, and the Gannett Blog has been buzzing with rumors about IDEO’s role. But the leaders of the transformation defend the IDEO process.

tags: future of newspapers, future of news, online

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Prop 8 - the musical

If you haven't yet seen the video, Prop 8 - the Musical, starring Jack Black as Jesus...well, here's your chance.

Friday, November 14, 2008

What he said

I'd heard about this commentary by Keith Olbermann on the passage of Prop. 8, but hadn't seen it until today. It's heartfelt and worth watching.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Get with the program

Time for newspapers to get with the program? The video program? That's what journalism pioneer Michael Rosenblum said recently to the Society of Editors conference. Here are some excerpts on his presentation from a blog post by Dominic Ponsford on Press Gazette (U.K.) blog:
  • tags: video, future of news, business model

    • “Any idiot can do this, making TV is not hard, it's not complicated, it's not difficult. The technology makes it incredibly simple.”

      And he said print publications “must have video” on their websites or else go out of business.

    • “If you only have print or stills and your competitor has video your going to get eaten.”
    • He said print journalists were danger of becoming as obselete as the New England whalers of the 19th century.
    • “You are not in the newspaper business...When new technology like the internet comes along you can hide from it or you can embrace it.”

      He said: “Like the oilmen of New England you are already in the business but you have to remember the business you are in.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Stand on the side of love

Since the election, I have done a lot of thinking about the passage of Prop 8. I keep wondering how so many Californians could be more supportive of the rights of farm animals than of the rights of people. I keep wondering how people who have experienced discrimination could vote to inflict it upon others and enshrine discrimination in our constitution. I simply do not understand.

What I do know is that this is the next civil rights struggle. What I do know is that one day we will be as appalled by Prop 8 as we now are by the laws that forbade interracial marriage. I can only hope that day comes soon.

If, like me, you are looking for a way to express your support for the right of all individuals to marry the one they love, please consider attending one of the following Peninsula candlelight vigils on Monday, Nov. 10, from 5-6:30 p.m.:

* San Mateo corner of El Camino Real and Fifth Avenue (I'll be here)
* Belmont at El Camino Real and Ralston Avenue (CalTrain side)
* Redwood City corner of El Camino and Jefferson Ave.
* Palo Alto at the corner of El Camino Real and Embarcadero
* San Jose at S. Bascom and Hamilton Ave. (southeast corner, just west of 17)
* San Jose downtown at Metropolitan Community Church, 65 South 7th Street

Click here for the most up-to-date list of venues, and links to maps. Bring candles. Rainbow flags and banners from faith communities are also welcome.

How Unitarian-Universalists view the right to marry
Listen to the UU hymn, Standing on the Side of Love

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


The answer to the question we've all been asking:

Election day impressions

I spent most of the day on the front lines of the No on Prop. 8 campaign, greeting voters and handing out hand cards at a San Bruno polling station at a middle school.

(In case you're not a Californian, Prop. 8 would overturn the recent California Supreme Court decision allowing gays to wed.)

Here are my election day impressions:
  • We Prop. 8 volunteers got lots of "thumbs up" from voters and passing drivers. We could tell they were really glad to see us when they honked their horns or took both hands off the steering wheel to give us two "thumbs up."
  • We decided to "kill them with kindness." We smiled and wished everyone a wonderful day, even if they told us they were voting "yes" on 8. We even smiled and waved at drivers who stopped to yell abuse at us (yes, there were several of those).
  • I expected a majority of younger people would support us, but I was pleased to see how many older men and women also told us they were voting no on 8.
  • About two-thirds of the people we greeted said, "You've got my vote." About 20-25 percent avoided us, ignored us, or waved us off. About 5 percent were rude or abusive.
  • One man, already in line (and thus out of reach) when we got to the polling station around 7 a.m., stopped on his way out to tell us how happy he was to see us there. I thought he was going to hug me.
  • One middle-aged woman and her husband stopped to say she's been angry ever since she first heard about Prop. 8. Saying it was "unfair," said she'd been waiting to vote against it.
  • One guy drove up around noon on a motorcycle, thanked us for being there, and gave us some homemade rice krispie bars. They were good.
  • I helped several people maneuver into tight parallel parking spaces on the street outside the polling station. One of them, when I handed him the No on 8 hand card, told me he wasn't that thrilled with the idea of gay marriage, but since it was now law, he was going to vote no on Prop. 8.
  • Big domestic model pick-up trucks and SUVs usually indicated "Yes on 8" voters.
  • A surprising number of people (8-10) questioned our presence outside the polling place. Several times I had to tell someone that we had indeed checked with the precinct captain and we were well outside the 100-foot limit.
  • A sizable proportion of Yes on 8 voters seemed angry, some downright nasty.
  • Many Yes on 8 voters couldn't seem to just pass us by or wave us off; they had to stop and taunt us, saying "you're going to lose because we voted yes" or the like.
  • Several Yes on 8 voters stopped their vehicles in the middle of the street yell out their windows at us. Some just yelled "Yes on 8" at us. Some yelled, "You're gonna lose; you're going down." One woman told us to repent because we were going to hell. So it goes.
  • Our "No on 8" stickers were a hot item with middle-school students. We gave out all we had and wished we had more. A good sign for the future.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Campaign tinnitus?

Here is New York Times columnist Gail Collins' theory about the voters who, at this late date, say they're still "undecided":
My theory is that whenever they hear someone start to discuss the issues, they cover their ears and make humming noises, the way my husband does when I say it is time to take a look at our 401(k)s.
Her Nov. 1 column is called Our Election Whopper.

For another sound of the campaign, check out "Don't Speak for Me, Sarah Palin: The Musical," a hoot of a video posted on the

And if you want to hear a blast from the ugly side of America -- the side I dearly hope doesn't prevail this time around -- read some of the vicious comments appended to this KC Star editorial. In it, Yael T. Abouhalkah (you can imagine how well that name goes over) notes that Obama is "poised to become America's first black president" and suggests his opponents get used to the idea.

From the sound of these so-called "Midwest Voices," I'd say that's gonna take a while. Makes me glad I no longer live in Kansas City.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The power of Diigo

I've been using Diigo, the online bookmarking tool that's available here as a Firefox extension, for a while now. I've mostly used it to bookmark interesting articles, blog posts and such that I find on the web.

What I like is that Diggo not only lets you easily save items, it lets you highlight the "good parts" so that when you go back to the article you can easily find them. That turned out to be a real asset when I was working on my part of the JACC Norcal keynote a couple weeks ago.

It's been a real pressure cooker of a semester, so I had very little time to put my JACC presentation together. However, I'd been bookmarking, highlighting and saving relevant blog posts and articles into my JACC list on Diigo (yes, you can categorize what you save) for weeks. So when I finally sat down to create a presentation, I had everything I needed at my fingertips. I was able to put it all together in a day. (By the way, you can view that presentation, Journalism in the Starbucks Era, on SlideShare, another great online tool.)

But after downloading a Diigo update this morning, I realized I'm just scratching the surface of what you can do with Diigo. For example, my previous blog post on Greenspan's sudden epiphany...well, I posted it direct from Diigo while reading and bookmarking the article. Pretty cool, huh?

When I ran through Diigo's "how-to" overview this morning, I found several other things I didn't know. In addition to using the one-click "Send to Blog" feature, you can also use Diigo's "send" feature to:
  • send annotated and highlighted pages by email
  • post to other websites such as twitter, facebook, delicious, etc.
Cool! I'm using it for a tweet next.

But what really caught my attention was the idea of using Diigo as a hub for group research projects. You can set up a group Diigo account to share bookmarks, and make it public, private or semi-private. This has real potential for students working on group projects, especially since Diigo's "sticky note" feature also lets you add comments to the material you save, in addition to highlighting key passages.

OK, I'm sold! I'm going to start demo-ing Diigo for my students.

Greenspan shocked at failure of free markets

Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman, has finally stopped believing in the fiction of a self-correcting free market. In other words, he's realized that Ayn Rand is not only dead, but that she was a novelist.
  • Greenspan shocked at failure of free markets

    • It was a remarkable moment: Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, a lifelong champion of free markets, publicly questioning the philosophy that guided him throughout his years as the world's most powerful economic policymaker.

    • Greenspan said that, in light of a crisis he characterized as "a once-in-a-century financial tsunami," he was wrong to think financial markets could police themselves. He incorrectly had expected the discipline of the market would prevent financial institutions from taking life-threatening risks.

    • Greenspan replied that indeed he had found a flaw in his ideology, one that left him very distressed. "In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology was not right?" asked Rep. Henry Waxman (chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform).

    • For his whole adult life, the former Fed chairman has been a devotee of the philosophy of Ayn Rand, who celebrated free-market capitalism as the world's most moral economic order and advocated a strict laissez-faire approach to government regulation of the marketplace.
Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Starbucks-era journalism

You know you've got their attention when you get heckled during your presentation. At least that's my theory.

It happened at last Saturday's JACC NorCal conference (that's the Journalism Association of Community Colleges of Northern California), held at SJSU. My colleague Steve Sloan and I were the keynoters, addressing an audience of about 250 community college J-students and faculty on "Journalism in the Starbucks Era."

During our talk, we discussed some of the trends and online tools that are shaping journalism, including blogging, YouTube, Twitter and other forms of social media. I am a self-proclaimed blogging evangelist and a fan of Twitter, so my perspective on these tools is largely positive. I see them as tools, not as implements of destruction.

However, one CC faculty member, tucked in the last row, apparently disagreed. He took issue with the idea that bloggers could also be journalists. He interrupted us. Twice.

So here's what I told him: Blogging and journalism are not mutually exclusive. Journalism is what you do, not who you work for. Some journalists are also bloggers, and some bloggers do commit acts of journalism. After all, blogs are just another distribution channel, not the infidel.

Today, for example, some bloggers are doing something that looks a lot like journalism to me. They're digging through public records for background information on "Joe the (soon to be infamous) plumber," who was cited by Sen. John McCain in last night's presidential debate. Turns out that a number of the things McCain said about "Joe" last night are not true: Joe is registered as a Republican, not as an independent; he's a plumber's helper, not a plumbing business owner; and he doesn't make over $250,000 a year. Yes, it appears that Joe was a "plant."

Bloggers helped ferret some of that information out. Instead of looking at them as impediments, perhaps journalists should look at bloggers as potential people who could be helpful in these times of news organization cutbacks.

As the old saying goes, "Many hands make light work."

P.S. If you'd like to view my segment of our JACC presentation, you can see it on SlideShare at Links to all my resources are included on the final slide. And if you didn't "Hack the Debate," be sure to check out that link.

Daily laugh

Three things that made me laugh today:

"I thought it was just some creepy guy, like a very advanced Internet predator, who had worked really hard on his backstory."
~ Bo Burnham, YouTube phenom, on his first call from an agent (I read it in my morning SF Chron; you can read it online here)

"McCain finally shows his true zombie form."
~ Kitsune Noir, photo link via Twitter.

"The GOP likes to say it's a big tent. Looks more like a yurt to me."
~ Christopher Buckley, National Review writer and son of the mag's founder, conservative icon William F. Buckley Jr., after his recent Obama endorsement sent NR readers and editors off the deep end. Buckley has resigned.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

A Little Persuasion

I should have been grading papers, but at the last minute I decided to play hooky for a few hours to see one of my favorites musicians, Richard Thompson, who was "playing real good for free" this afternoon at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Fest in Golden Gate Park.

Traffic was thick and the parking garage I'd found on Google Maps turned out not to exist, but I finally found a tiny parking space on the edge of the park just a few blocks from the stage. I squeezed my little VW Golf into it and hot-footed it into the park.

As I approached the open-air stage, I could hear Richard Thompson striking the opening chords of Bathsheba Smiles. A couple walking in the same direction asked, "Oh, is that Nick Lowe?"

"No," I replied, "that's Richard Thompson."

"Teddy Thompson's dad?"

"Yes, that's him."

On stage, it was just Thompson and his acoustic guitar, putting out enough sound to blow back your hair. He picks so fast and furious it always sounds like there must be two of him.

I found a open spot not too far back and sat cross-legged on the ground. Next up was one of my all-time Thompson favorites, Persuasion. As he sang, a pair of red-tailed hawks circled overhead. All around me, people tapped their feet and nodded their heads in time to the music. Some, like me, sang along on the chorus.

Also on the playlist: Crawl Back, 1952 Vincent Black Lightening, Sunset Song, a lovely ballad, and Dad's Gonna Kill Me, a song about Iraq ("Dad" is soldier slang for Baghdad, he said), and probably one or two others I forgot. He reprised with Valerie.

If you're not familar with Thompson, you can check him out on at Here's a YouTube video of Thompson singing Persuasion with his son, Teddy, who performed in town last month (sorry I missed that).

Tags: Richard Thompson, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

Friday, October 03, 2008

In sheep's clothing

When I scanned this article in this morning, I found the answer to a question that had been puzzling me since Monday. That's when I read this OpEd piece in the San Jose Mercury News. It purported to explain the author's support for Prop 8, which would eliminate the right of marriage for same-sex couples, despite his being a "liberal Democrat."

Great story. Too bad it turns out not to be true. As noted in the article, the author appears to be a paid right-wing shill. However, MN readers weren't told that. Here's what they were told:
David Blankenhorn is president of the New York-based Institute for American Values and the author of "The Future of Marriage." He wrote this article for the Los Angeles Times.
Nothing about his conservative connections. Nothing about him not really being a liberal. That kind of misrepresentation makes me mad, so I wrote this letter to the editor:
The Mercury News needs to do a better job of fact-checking its OpEds. If you had, you would have found that self-professed "liberal Democrat" David Blankenhorn, who wrote the Monday's oped "Protecting Marriage to Protect Children," is not who he says he is.

In fact, Blankenhorn appears to be a paid shill for several right-wing advocacy groups. His "think tank," the Institute for American Values (of which he is president), has raked in millions of dollars from ultra-conservative Republican foundations, including the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Scaife Family Foundation, and the Randolph Foundation.

As noted in an article in today's, the Institute for American Values is just one of a "network of right-wing Republican think tanks that promote a variety of causes," including the elimination of gay marriage, abortion rights and embryonic stem-cell research, and the inclusion of prayer and creationism in public schools.

Clearly, this guy is no liberal, and I kinda doubt he's a Democrat. I'd say you got played.

I hope you will issue a correction on your OpEd pages to clarify Mr. Blankenhorn's allegiances, so those who took his assertions at face value can be aware of his hidden agenda.
I kinda doubt the Mercury News will run a correction, but I figure it can't hurt to ask.

Full Disclosure: I have volunteered for the No on Prop8 campaign. We're holding No on Prop 8 phone bank sessions at my church. I even have a No on 8 yard sign. (And if David Blankenhorn had disclosed his biases, I wouldn't have felt the need to write this post.)

P.S. So maybe you're wondering, "Why should I care?" Maybe, like me, you're straight and married. If you're asking yourself that question, please read this letter, written by a member of my church to her family and friends.

Tags: No on Prop 8, prop8, California

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hack the debate?

Perhaps you've read Dan Gillmor's account of the comeuppance of "poor Joe Nacchio," a financial guy who happened to be speaking at an executive conference in 2002 when bloggers first flexed their muscles.

As Gillmor tells it in the introduction to his book, We the Media (available online), he and a couple other bloggers were live-blogging the event, commenting on Nacchio's speech. When Gillmor and another blogger started pointing out some discrepancies between what Nacchio was saying and what he had done, they noticed the audience started getting hostile. Turns out that a lot of them were following the blogs while listening to Nacchio's speech, and they didn't like what they were reading.

We could see something similar take place via microblogging during this Friday's presidential debate (or town hall session, if McCain pulls a no-show).

Current TV and Twitter are planning to run real-time twitter messages ("tweets") over Current TV's live broadcast of the debate. So instead of just listening, viewers can comment on what's being said and see what others are close to real time.

The Current TV website notes that it will broadcast "as many of your debate tweets as possible right over Obama & McCain, in real time, on our live broadcast."

If you want to take part, all you need is a Twitter account and an internet connection. Then just tweet to your heart's content...and add "#current" to your tweets so they'll be queued for broadcast. You can also follow these tweets by searching #current on Twitter search.

Check it out at:

Saturday, September 06, 2008

No Vista on my horizon

I can see why Microsoft is having to explain their new ad -- the one where Jerry Seinfeld runs into Bill Gates at a discount shoe store. I've already seen it several times many times (they seem to be blanketing the airwaves), and I still don't get the point.

I also don't get why anyone thinks this ad is going to give me warm, fuzzy feelings about Microsoft. Especially not with my latest Microsoft experience.

A couple weeks ago I got a call for help from my brother, a relatively new computer user with a new PC running Vista. He was trying to do something simple: Add a footer to his resume so it would say "page 2 of 2" on the second page. No big deal, right?

Well, apparently not if you have Vista.

It took me several minutes to figure out why my brother couldn't find the footer/header command on the drop-down "view" menu. It was because the menu bar wasn't there. I guess the geniuses at Microsoft decided that MS Word no longer needs a menu bar...which makes it a little more challenging to complete simple tasks.

So I asked my brother to try the keystroke command. No dice. Next, I googled "Vista" and "menu bar" and found a thriving cottage industry online offering software to restore your menu bar in Vista (for a small fee, of course).

My solution? I finally had my brother email mehis resume, so I could add a footer to his resume on my Mac, and send it back. That worked.

Seriously, what were the folks at Microsoft thinking?

I recently attended a WordCamp session (Wordpress, not MS Word) featuring Kathy Sierra, a programming instructor, game developer and blogger. In her presentation, Sierra pointed out that the faster people can get over the "I suck at it" threshold when learning new software (or anything else, for that matter), the happier they'll be with your products and your company.

So I have to ask: Why is Microsoft making people relearn how to use their software, which means forcing them to go through the "I suck at it" phase all over again. Doesn't seem like a good model for success to me.

Seriously, if they remove the menu bar from the Mac version of MS Office, I'll migrating. And I won't come back.

Keywords: advertising, Microsoft, Vista, Kathy Sierra, Wordcamp, Bill Gates, Jerry Seinfeld

Journalists arrested in St. Paul

You've probably heard about journalists being arrested in repressive nations like China. No big surprise, right? But what would you say if I told you it's happening in the United States of America too?

Find that hard to believe? Think things like that don't happen here? Then watch the video. You'll see Amy Goodman, an award-winning journalist, being arrested by St. Paul police as she was covering a protest outside the Republican National Convention on Monday.

Even though she was clearly identified as a journalist, Goodman was charged with "obstruction of a legal process and interference with a 'peace officer.'" Two of her producers were arrested for "suspicion of felony riot." Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now," a daily radio/TV program that airs on more than 700 stations nationwide.

A more honest charge would have been "covering news stories we don't want the public to see."

During the weeklong Republican National Convention, St. Paul police arrested and jailed 19 media workers, in addition to more than 800 protesters. Police used teargas and flash grenades against protesters.

So much for the First Amendment which, in case you need a refresher, reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
You can read Amy Goodman's account of her arrest here.

Keywords: First Amendment, media, journalism, RNC, MSM, Democracy Now, Amy Goodman

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Media matters

Yes, the media does matter. And so does the truth.

It was good to see a major media outlet like ABC News fact-checking aspiring VP Sarah Palin's speech to the Republican National Convention last night. As this ABC news article notes, Palin's speech "bent the truth on her record and on the opposition."

Not surprisingly, she left out the part about her remarkable skill at bringing home millions of "earmarked" federal dollars (our tax dollars at work!) to her community, and her support for the $398 million "bridge to nowhere." So much for being a "reformer."

Continuing his record of our-reporting most of the MSM, Jon Stewart of The Daily Show used Karl Rove and Bill O'Reilly's own words about candidate Palin to demonstrate their hypocrisy in defending her. Palin gets to demonstrate a fine veneer of hypocrisy too.

On a related front, the organization Media Matters for America has 'deconstructed' and charted the Republican smear campaign against Obama, calling it "Swiftboating 2.0" both for its resemblance to the 2004 smear campaign against John Kerry and for their use of web 2.0 techniques to spread the smears.

Media Matters notes:
Just as the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth unleashed on the public a dossier of lies about John Kerry in 2004, this new campaign is on a mission to spread misinformation about a presidential candidate.

We call it "Swiftboating 2.0" not only because it is the latest model of a political smear campaign, but also because it shares features of "Web 2.0" sites like Facebook and MySpace: significant portions of the content are generated by ordinary people and are spread from peer to peer. Swiftboating 2.0 combines these new information pathways with traditional media -- books from conservative publishers, right-wing radio, and conservative pundits and strategists on television -- to spread the smears as widely as possible and force them into the mainstream media.
If you don't want to see America get suckered again, don't help spread the lies...instead, spread the word.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

More Photo Booth fun

Another day, another PhotoBooth pic. This time it's my rock 'n' roll class getting the "how to blog" demo, replete with a quick demo of how add PhotoBooth pic of yourself to your blog.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Blogging Lessons

Here I am in a 100W class showing students how to blog.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The change we need

To hell with the same old "drill, drill, drill" -- it's time for some good old American innovation.

Wanna help?

Faux blogs

When is a "blog" not a blog?

When it's just another institutional web page. You'd think a university that uses the tagline "powering silicon valley" could do better.

Read my colleague Steve Sloan's comments on why this isn't really a blog, and what it would take to make this faux blog a real one.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Obama's speech left me with tears in my eyes and hope in my heart. Maybe we can win America back. Just maybe we can redeem the American dream and America's promise, so damaged over the last several years.

My colleague, Dona, and I almost didn't make it in time for the speech. We were on the way to Lake Tahoe, listening to the convention speeches on NPR, the sound crackling at times among the mountains.

We heard Al Gore's stellar call to action. As we got closer, we wondered if we'd get there in time to see Obama's speech, not just hear it.

When we pulled in the drive, we left everything in the vehicle, ran inside and turned on the TV. The introductory video was just starting. Yes!

Obama's speech filled me with the hope. Maybe we can fulfill America's potential. Maybe we can get back on track. Maybe we can deal with our nation's problems now, instead of foisting them off on future generations.

As the TV cameras panned over the people in the audience, I was struck by how much they looked like California. All ages, all races. Black and white and Asian and Hispanic and more -- all cheering together. All looking ahead. I hope the rest of America sees the promise of that.

And now I'm listening to conservative Patrick Buchanan on MSNBC say, "This is the greatest convention speech. ...This wasn't a liberal speech at was beautiful."

Hell, if Obama can appeal to Buchanan, he can certainly reach Independents...and maybe even some disenchanted Republicans.

Yes, something in America is stirring. Yes, it is.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Death on wings

I saw death this morning...just a glimpse, through my kitchen window.

Picture me in my bathrobe (light blue cotton), around 8 a.m., passing through the kitchen on my way back to the sofa and my laptop. I hear three sharp cries of distress through the slightly open kitchen window. I turn and see a flash of hawk ascending from dense shrubs bordering my front yard. It is rising skyward with something clutched in its sharp talons. Then it is gone.

I figure it must have nabbed a quail.

It's been a tough month for the neighborhood coveys of California Quail. Just last week, I was sitting on my sofa when I heard a clamor of quail in the back yard, followed by a mysterious thud. I got up to investigate.

As I stepped out onto the back deck, I was startled to see a hawk take off from the deck railing. At the same time, several quail burst out of their hiding places and buzzed off to find better cover. Another dull thud. I looked around, puzzled, then realized what that sound probably was -- panicked quail smacking into the picture windows overlooking our backyard.

I walked over to the windows and looked under the shrubs that border the foundation. Sure enough, a quail lay on the ground. Dull gray-brown feathers and a small plume -- a female. It made no move to get away, so I reached down and picked it up. Its head lolled, its eyes closed, its feet gave a little twitch. Then it was still.

I set it back on the ground and looked a little further. Yes, there was another one, a juvenile, lying on the ground behind the shrub. Clearly stunned, but still alive. When it saw me, it took off, a short dash followed by an unsteady hop of a flight that took it back onto the deck. I watched and waited quietly, not wanting to scare it off again. It sat on the bench for several minutes before flying up into one of the trees beside our house.

I picked up the dead quail again, and carried it over to the deck. I laid it gently atop the railing, a kind of peace offering to hawks, before going inside. The next morning, it was still there. Maybe hawks can't see quail unless they're in motion, or maybe they don't like them already dead.

The following morning, I noticed it was gone. I hoped perhaps a hawk had carried it off, but no. When I looked, I saw it had been blown off the railing onto the ground. The ants had already found it. In a few days, nothing would be left but bones and feathers.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

My WP tattoo

Yes, I'm having fun at WordCamp. Like my temp tattoo?

Wordcamp or the ER?

I had to make a tough choice to make early this morning...attend Wordcamp, or accompany my ailing husband to the local ER.

Wordcamp or the ER?
Wordcamp or the ER?

I hate to say it, but I went to Wordcamp...and my hubby went to the ER alone.

P.S. He was totally ambulatory and told me to go. I checked in; he's fine, now taking antibiotics.

P.P.S. Why am I blogging about Wordcamp on a Blogger blog? Because all of my school blogs are on that "pages" feature. Why haven't I switched this blog over to WP? Inertia...and ease of uploading photos.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Pretty in Pink

It was one of those gorgeous evenings, when the late afternoon sun made the neighboring hills and the city below us glow and glint with light. Every time I looked out the window, something else was gleaming in the setting sun.

As twilight approached, the sky colored pink. I grabbed my camera and stepped out on the deck to grab some pics.

The top photo is the view over neighboring rooftops, looking north. The second one is a cloud formation over the bay.

I love those sensuous, puffy pink clouds.

Puffy pink

Sunday, August 03, 2008

May nothing evil cross this door

It's been a week since a man walked into a Unitarian-Universalist church in Knoxville, Tennessee, pulled a gun out of a guitar case, and shot and killed two people.

It's been a week of realizing that religious hatred and violence are not just things that happen in places like Bosnia, Africa, Palestine or Iraq; they're alive and well in the United States of America...and sometimes they're directed at people like me. It's been an unsettling realization.

I'm a Unitarian Universalist. For about five years in the mid-'90s, I lived in Knoxville. I attended some Sunday services at that UU church, though I never became a member.

This morning at my UU church, we sang May Nothing Evil Cross This Door. The words carried a new layer of meaning. My eyes teared, at times my voice faltered.

In her sermon, our minister spoke about the Tennessee killings. She spoke of the usher who put himself between the shooter and the rest of the congregation, and was shot and killed. She spoke of those who made sure the children got out safely, and of the brave souls who tackled the gunman and held him down until police arrived. And of the woman interviewed outside the church shortly after the shootings, who was asked what the killer had said as he shot at them. She told the reporter the man said hateful things, but declined to elaborate. She told the reporter, "The hate ends here."

I've been thinking about that. Would I have had the presence of mind, or the "control of mouth," to have stopped myself from repeating -- and perpetuating -- those words of hate. Honestly, I doubt it. I even talk back to the TV sometimes.

As a former reporter, I understand why journalists asked what the killer said. But I'm glad she didn't tell them. If she had, those hateful words would have become lurid headlines, fodder for breathless newscasts and talk radio hatemongers nationwide. Some things are better left unsaid.

The day before the shooting, at the BlogHer conference, I attended a session on "Beautiful Blogging." One speaker defined it as staying open to the positive in spite of difficulties. Another put it more bluntly. Alyssa Royse of said, "Do I want to put my crap in the world, or do I want to put out something that will make people feel better and be better?" She said she chooses to focus on the positive.

And I guess that's what we did in church this Sunday. All the money in today's collection plates, along with notes of support and caring, will go to the Knoxville Relief Fund to help those affected by the shooting.

The final verse of May Nothing Evil Cross This Door:
With laughter drown the raucous shout,
and, though these sheltering walls are thin,
may they be strong to keep hate out
and hold love in.
The hate stops here.

Link to a story on the rededication of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Leaving caution behind

Halfway to campus, something got stuck.

Bong, bong. "Caution, the doors are about to close."
Bong, bong. "Caution, the doors are about to close."

Finally, the train rolled out of Palo Alto station, with the auto voice still chanting.

Bong, bong. "Caution, the doors are about to close."
Bong, bong. "Caution, the doors are about to close."

All the way to San Jose.

A conductor rushed to the intersection between the two front cars, where the auto voice was on overload. He tinkered. He poked. No change.

Bong, bong. "Caution, the doors are about to close."
Bong, bong. "Caution, the doors are about to close."

Another conductor arrived. More tinkering. Some banging. No change.

Bong, bong. "Caution, the doors are about to close."
Bong, bong. "Caution, the doors are about to close."

Finally, they gave up.

As we rolled into San Jose Diridon Station, I think we were all ready to leave "caution" behind. Maybe even throw caution to the wind.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

BlogHer pics

Here are some of my favorite photos from the BlogHer closing event at Macy's.

SueBob of Red Stapler blog snuggles up to a mannequin in Macy's lingerie department...Diane Brown of oak-in-the-seed blog and a frriend from Land 'O Lakes...a beautiful plate of savories...J.D. Bauchery's bluebird tattoo.

BlogHer Photo Walk

After spending most of the day in BlogHer sessions, I took a break Saturday afternoon and joined the Shutter Sisters for their first annual BlogHer Photo Walk.

We started out in Union Square, across the street from the hotel, where a crowd had gathered to watch a local fashion show. I got engrossed in grabbing some shots to add to my hair series (coming soon to my Flickr site) and soon lost track of the rest of the group. Oh well.

Some folks were selling things in the square, and I couldn't help browsing. I found a fabulous bead bracelet at the Corinthia Peoples Designs booth, and brought it from Marinda (at right). She has great hair and agreed to let me photograph her.

I also had fun taking pics of Angel's Trumpet (a.k.a. brugmansia) in flower beds on one side of the Square, and of pedestrians passing in front of a large billboard.

Then, as I was heading back to the hotel to catch the Boomers "Birds of a Feather" session at 4 p.m., I caught sight of a guy toting a really big fashion show poster on his head.

"Wait a minute!" I said. "I need a picture!"

John Bibayan, a UC-Berkeley student who's interning at 944 magazine, obliged, and I got this pic...which I just love. Thanks John!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Graveyard humor

Earlier this summer, I visited Sydney, Nova Scotia, and toured St. Patrick's Church Museum. Built in 1828, this small stone church is the oldest Roman Catholic Church still standing on Cape Breton Island.

As I stood in the center of the church, docent John A. told me church about its founder, the Reverend Henry McKeagney. When he died, John said, the Reverend was buried in a small graveyard right behind the church. But when a small church addition was built, his grave had to be moved.

Where to, I inquired?

You're standing on him, John replied.


John just smiled. We walked over to the small side annex. Turning, he pointed to a large square of new floorboards in the center of the church. That's how they got into the basement when they needed to install
a furnace, he said.

But they found a surprise down there...
several more graves that had to be relocated.

"Where?" I asked, right on cue.

John smiled at me and said, "
You're standing on them."

Yeah, he got me again.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Travelogue, Part 2

I loved Quebec City: People speaking French. Narrow cobblestone streets, lined with tall brick buildings, winding up a steep hill crowned by the Hotel Frontenac. Lots of stairs, a funicular...and did I mention lots of people speaking French?

The first thing I did was buy a French-English dictionary and try to remember some of my high school French. But it turns out it wasn't necessary. Everyone I talked to was fairly bilingual.

In between shopping bouts (QC has some great boutiques!), I heard a clamor. I saw people gathering at the edge of the street; there was a buzz of anticipation. What's up? Bicycle race!

Here are the leaders, rounding a turn on the uphill climb.

Next stop, Charlottetown, PEI, where my hubby and I rode a horse-drawn conveyance (park benches screwed onto a flatbed) around town and toured historic Beaconsfield House. The horses are Belgians; the one on the right is a former show horse embarking on a new career in tourism.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Visiting Le Jardin Botanique

If you're not into flowers, if you're not a gardener -- you might just want to stop now. This post is about my visit to le Jardin Botanique de Montreal.

I went there hoping to see some of the things I miss growing in the Bay Area, where it's not cold enough for lilacs and peonies. I don't miss winter, but I do miss some of the favorite blooms of my youth.

In turns out I also missed most of the lilacs: it was too late in the season, and too late in day for much fragrance from those few still left in bloom. But the iris and peonies were in full bloom. And, oh my, what peonies! I'd never seen yellow peonies before and these were enormous, luscious blooms, some with contrasting reddish centers. Beds and beds of peonies, in maroon, red, rose, coral, pink and white...peonies to die for!

In the rose garden, most of the hybrid teas still looked scraggly: clumps of leafed-out sticks with fat buds promising harlot blooms in another month or so. But my favorites -- the antiques and the David Austin roses -- were blooming. Austin's Mary Rose was pretty in pink, lush and fragrant, much better than she ever looked in my former garden in Tennessee, where blackspot and mildew took its toll.

After two hours of wandering through the gardens, I was footsore and weary and headed for the exit. On my way out, I asked a garden official in a passing golf cart for the location of the nearest recycling bin, so I could unload my soda bottle before heading to the Metro station. We chatted a moment, and I mentioned my disappointment at missing the lilacs. He asked if I'd seen the rhododendrons. No, I replied, they were a little too far out for me to walk to today. "I could get you there in five minutes," he said.

How could I refuse? It turned out that my "chauffeur," Pierre Paradise, is head of security at the garden. And he was right -- the rhodos were worth a trip.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Anarachy, art and hope

I started the week in San Francisco, touring the Mission's murals with a friend. I ended the week taking pictures of peonies in full bloom dans le Jardin Bontanique de Montreal. (Look for some of those pics in a future post.)

Yes, it was a good week, my first real week off from school. Here are some highlights of my Mission mural walk:

This mural, painted on a garage door in Balmy Ave., is a tribute to women artists. Frida, I recognized, but not the rest.

Across the alley is this compelling portrait. That's my friend Nancy coming face to face with it.

The next mural, it turns out, illustrates an apocalyptic poem by William Butler Yeats:

...Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world...

(here's where I cut out some of the gratuitously gory get to these lines, which have always seemed to me to speak of politics and religion...especially in combination)

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Anyway, I like this mural's colorful bugs (the proverbial cockroaches, mayhaps?) crawling around the scattered grey (oh, no, are we all dead?) human forms. Instead of "The Second Coming," let's just call this one "After Global Warming."

I hate to end on such a down note, so let me close with something more hopeful. While viewing the murals, we met these lively 8th graders on a field trip. Their teachers at St. Paul's Epicopal in Oakland had asked them to pick a mural and write about its message. They described this one as "Breaking the chains of oppression."

Here they are, getting into character with the mural: Nicholas Piucci, Emily Nguyen, Rafa Moraga, Bruce Lien and Max "Cool Kid" Ornstil.

Power to the people!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Twittering around

Lately I've been using Twitter, that short-form (140 characters or less) cross between blogging and instant messaging.

I don't post that many "tweets" myself; I mostly use it to keep track of some colleagues and former students. But I'm finding it interesting to see how others are using it.

For example, I see people using Twitter to:
  • Keep in touch with friends and colleagues
  • Promote themselves or their latest blog posts, videos, podcasts
  • Pass on breaking news, or to link to interesting items they've found on the web
  • Request information or assistance
  • Network
Here's a new wrinkle: One of my former students, a newly minted grad, is using Twitter as part of his job search (see below). He's already gotten one helpful plug. I hope networking on Twitter helps him find a job.

PS: Here's a link to Kyle Hansen's resume.

PS2: You can find me on Twitter at read my latest tweets in the sidebar of this blog.

PS3: Here's another recent post I wrote about Twitter -- A Twitter shout out? -- on one of my class blogs.

PS4: If you're interested in Twitter, you should also check out Twitterific, a fun Twitter application for Macs, and

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Older and wiser? (we hope)

Losing words, forgetting names and numbers...ah, the annoyances of middle age. But it may not signal the onset of memory loss. Instead, it may indicate a change in memory function, and a transition to a wider focus.

As noted in this NYT article on the older brain:
“A broad attention span may enable older adults to ultimately know more about a situation and the indirect message of what’s going on than their younger peers,” Dr. Hasher said. “We believe that this characteristic may play a significant role in why we think of older people as wiser.”
Could be good news for someone who's about to turn 55.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Time out

For those of us who don't have enough to do (and those who prefer to procrastinate), there's...
I know, I know...I should be grading. Later.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

One more reason to get a Mac

Thinking of lifting that laptop? If it's a Mac, better think again!

As one of my students put it, " Haha -- this is another reason why Macs rule!"

(Thanks for the link, Carlos.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Heat wave brings on tabouli

It's not even summer yet and it hit 93 today. After a mostly cool spring, going outside is like stepping into a sauna.

It is still fairly cool inside the house, and I want to keep it that cooking is out. I am making tabouli.

I used to be afraid of using too much parsley. If a tabouli recipe called for a cup or more of chopped parsley, I would think it was an insane amount and cut it in half...and wonder why I ended up with dull tabouli.

Then I had a side of tabouli at a local Mediterranean restaurant. I was shocked to see it contained more parsley than bulghur. I took a small bite, dubious, and got a shock. It was fabulous! Green and earthy, tart and lemony. Yum. It was a taste bud epiphany.

So I have adjusted my approach. More parsley, much more parsley. Chop chop.

My tabouli is chilling, marinating, blending its flavors. And I am getting hungry.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

If a tree falls...

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

And if a story lands on the front page of the New York Times, but other reporters and news organizations ignore it, does it still count? That's the question asked in this From the Frontline blog post, What No Inquiry?

I've been asking myself the same question. After all, in the past month we've heard some startling news.
Real news...all buried under a barrage of "horse race" campaign coverage, speculation about Reverend Wright, and heavy breathing over the Texas polygamy raid.

Ah, yes, the mainstream media has so many more important things to do.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Fill 'er up?

It was a landmark fill-up: I recently topped the $50 mark while gassing up my little VW Golf. Yikes!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Happy Earth Day from Brawny

I found a special gift on my doorstep this morning: a free sample of a paper towel tucked in with my Sunday newspaper.

To deliver a single 10.5 x 11-inch sheet of Brawny paper towel to my door, the nice folks at Georgia Pacific folded it in quarters, backed it with a piece of white card stock, and tucked it inside a preprinted cellophane wrapper.

Then they stuck that package inside a larger four-color brochure detailing the delights of the NEW softer and thicker Brawny towel. Finally, they sealed the whole thing inside a pocket in the plastic bag my newspaper was delivered in this morning.

As you can see, there's way more wrapper than paper towel.

The kicker? It arrived just in time for Earth Day.

Somewhere a Georgia Pacific marketer is about to be fired.