Sunday, September 30, 2007

Connecting With Elizabeth Edwards

The Silicon Valley Moms Blog and sister sites (via conference call) Chicago Moms Blog and DC Metro Moms Blog had a unique opportunity to meet with Elizabeth Edwards in San Jose yesterday. As I've been contributing to the blog now for over a year, this was my second chance to meet with this remarkable woman, with whom many of us feel a connection. Except this time was different - she's no longer on a book tour; she's the wife of a presidential candidate. And while the discussion shifted to more specific policy issues than personal, it was still intimate and inviting.

As you can see from my liveblogging, we covered topics from tax brackets to math education to healthcare translators. And Elizabeth Edwards still loves us. (After one of my fellow contributors challenged her parenting choices a few weeks ago, there was some heated exchange that got picked-up by "Good Morning America" and taught our blogger and many others a lesson in taking care of what they post. Eventually Elizabeth and Rebecca made up, but it was an interesting few days for the blog.) And we still love her. Even if some of us won't be voting for her husband.

In my case, as much as I really like Elizabeth and John Edwards, Hillary Clinton's experience and her deep grasp of the issues is holding me strongly in her support. When it comes to national security, our place in the world, healthcare and the economy, I believe Hillary Clinton is our best choice. I like John Edward's proposals and I especially like the fact he's willing to talk about the environment and poverty more than most of the other candidates, but at the end of the day, with terrorists striking, hurricanes flooding and children dying all over the world, I'll sleep better at night knowing Hillary and Bill Clinton are in the White House than John and Elizabeth Edwards. That said, I would still sleep very well knowing John and Elizabeth Edwards were in the White House, and if John Edwards wins the nomination, I will work extremely hard to make sure he wins the election next November.

So what is it about Elizabeth Edwards that makes us all like her so much? As we noticed when we met with her last year during her book tour, she has this down-to-earth quality that shows both her intelligence and her kindness, without any superficial attitude or put-on interest. She genuinely likes to meet new people, she has a wonderfully light way about her, and she sat down with us like we were all old friends. She's also a little bit of a geek, hanging out on the blogs late at night in hotel rooms while traversing the campaign trail, which I find endearing. And she has dealt with major life challenges with the death of her son and her breast cancer, both of which have only added more depth to her persona and more commitment to the causes meaningful to her. I find her both incredibly inspiring and acutely insightful.

Where do we go now? Well, she's promised to meet with the DC Metro Moms Blog and the Chicago Moms Blog as well, so hopefully that will transpire. The SVMoms still seek to meet with other candidates and their spouses, regardless of party, and I hope to help facilitate that. Although I realize it is a long shot because Elizabeth Edwards is unique in her connection to mommybloggers, I think the other candidates could benefit greatly from the discussion with the women in our network - all of whom are highly educated, qualified people in their own right, not just moms, and all of whom represent a key group of women voters.

Some of us from the SVMoms Blog spoke today with various members of the press about our meeting, and one of the points brought up was that this event really has no precedent. The reporter in one case couldn't recall another time where a group of bloggers was given such intimate access to a candidate or candidate's wife. I think this holds great promise for blogs to provide another vehicle for kitchen table and New Hampshire-style living room meet-and-greet democracy. If we can take these small conversations taking place in person and somehow transmit that feeling through the web, we might all feel a little closer to the national political process after all. Thank you Elizabeth.

Also posted here on the BlogHer site.

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Cybersalon Summary From Last Week - Politics 101, Web 2.0, and Democracy vs. Demagoguery

First mentioned at Cybersalon, a "round table" (round room) discussion that took place in Berkeley last weekend, was that Joan Blades of MoveOn and MomsRising couldn't attend due to the Senate's censure of MoveOn for the Petraeus-Betray Us ad. The group (40 or so people, mostly local) discussed whether MoveOn's decision to run costly print advertising like this was worth it. Most said yes, since they made $500,000 in one day as a result. One person noted that Hillary Clinton, on the talk show circuit, said the reason the Republicans were coming out against the ad was to change the subject. Some said there were better ways to make their money and gave suggestions. Not that this crowd was biased at all. (Please note sarcasm.)

The discussion moved to whether or not the Internet is really making a difference in politics, and many talked about how it depends on its use. I agreed with the quote Sylvia Paull, Cybersalon organizer, said about Esther Dyson noting that technology itself is neutral and how it can be used for either. (I'm paraphrasing.) My example: blogs. You can use them as dictatorial mechanisms with strict content and message control, no comments or massive comment censorship, or you can leave them totally open. One woman said she thought that due to all of the frustration about the 2000 and 2004 elections, it was nice to have a place to vent online. I also pointed-out that voter data seems to have spiked in direct relation to greater use of the Internet in campaigns.

Then the discussion moved toward military censorship of soldiers. One person seemed irate that this would happen; another said that's always happened. Either way, they made it sound as if soldiers' email and outside communications access is so limited, they can barely say more to their families than they are alive vs. actually giving their real opinions about the war.

Then the talk came to how people can make a difference on a local level. The site, Kitchen Democracy was mentioned along with the San Leandro Citizens Network. Someone from Progressive Punch introduced himself. Also MapLight was there. Everyone concurred that a great way to GOTV is through neighborhood weekly "Margarita Fridays" where you get your neighbors on the block to come over, drink margaritas and talk about local issues. Sounds good to me.

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Last Week's San Mateo County Democratic Tech & Politics Event Recap

Normally, I'd do a better job of writing about these events from last week, but it was a pretty crazy week. Anyway, my apologies for lateness to those who couldn't attend the event and wanted to read the synopses here. The Technology, Politics & Innovation Panel set up by San Mateo County Democratic Party leaders Andrew Byrnes and Daniel Yost, was well organized. It was nice to see more local people who work in this area.

Tuesday's event in Menlo Park featured six panelists: Peter Leyden, Michelle Kraus, Perla Ni, David Chiu, Josh Becker and Dave Pine. Peter gave a nice presentation about how he and the New Politics Institute are working in Congress to get more people up to speed on technology. He spoke about how ad revenue is gradually shifting over and how campaigns are benefitting from placing Google ads, for example.

Michelle formerly ran Digital Campaigns, she has participated in The Huffington Post and she has an organization called Technology and Politics in Menlo Park. She gave an interesting example of producing a low cost video ad opposing Prop. 90 in the last CA statewide election and how they were able to reach over 300,000 page views a day and capture 2 points during the election from that campaign.

Perla Ni spoke about how Voterwatch makes Congressional videos searchable and how difficult it is to make change on the Hill in terms of opening up these videos to the public, how long it takes to get access to the video transcripts and how cumbersome it is to find real information about what is discussed. She spoke about reaching out to blogs to draw attention to this issue. David Chiu co-founded along with Perla, who recently founded David addressed how often this field changes in terms of technology being used in campaigns. He talked about how important data and message are in campaigns.

Josh Becker formerly worked as a press secretary in Washington. His focus is on how we get people to use tech tools locally in campaigns, and he spoke about getting the "smart, entrepreneurial people" in Silicon Valley together to make substantive change. Then Dave Pine spoke as "Mr. Local." A former General Counsel for Handspring, he's now running for local office. He spoke about how technology is changing things for local elections in terms of managing contacts and voter data, YouTube videos, eVites, and Cafe Press. He mentioned the Burliingame Voice as an example of a local blog that gets some good discussion.

After their presentations, we had a lengthy Q&A discussion and then we discussed more local political engagement issues. There was some talk about whether positive or negative campaigning will make more of an impact in this election. I concur with what David Chiu said which is essentially that both will happen, but I'll take it further and say I think the media will still focus on the negative things like the YouTube videos making fun of candidates, but that the positive things like the social networking will even it out. (I'll admit it - I thought the sites like MySpace and Facebook were just representative of meaningless stats at first, but I'm beginning to believe that they may actually affect how some people learn about candidates and how they vote.)

There was some exciting talk about how young people ("Gen X") are voting more now and the correlation between that data and use of the Internet in politics. Then we discussed getting a San Mateo County blog going. I typed furiously and got most of the meeting into notes, so if anyone wants the full transcript, I'd be happy to send it out by email.

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Liveblogging SVMoms Meeting Elizabeth Edwards Today

Today, I had the opportunity, along with the Silicon Valley Moms, to meet with Elizabeth Edwards again, wife of presidential candidate, John Edwards. Last fall we met with Mrs. Edwards and we all really enjoyed that experience, so we worked hard to make it happen again.

This time, we decided to live blog the meeting and since I'm the tech politics mom, I got that exhausting, but exciting job. (Carpal tunnel, what carpal tunnel?) Elizabeth Edwards talks so quickly and brilliantly (and often tangentially), it can be difficult to follow her threads, but it turned out well. We discussed a variety of issues from healthcare to education to the US's place in the world. We all felt honored she was willing to share her precious time with us.

Here's my liveblogging post. There will be more follow-up on the SVMoms blog about the meeting over the next few days.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Bloggers First Today at UN for Leadership Meeting on Climate Change

The U.N. Foundation and the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences are now allowing "leading bloggers" into U.N. proceedings. Eleven bloggers were to be live blogging "The Future In Our Hands: Addressing the Leadership Challenge of Climate Change" today in NYC. The event included major figures Al Gore and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

According to the press release, "Together these bloggers reach an audience of more than 6 million people a month, all over the world. Participants in the “blog day” hosted by the UN Foundation at the UN are: Brian Beutler,; Jasmin Chua,; Mark Goldberg, UN; Blake Hounshell,; Joel Johnson,; Ezra Klein,; Sameer Lalwani, The Washington; Juliana Rotich, Global Voices; Kate Sheppard,; Kay Steiger, Campus; and Matthew Yglesias," Proceedings can be found on their blogs and at the UN Dispatch site.

All I can say is it's about time a) the UN is taking on this serious discussion in this manner and b) they invited bloggers to cover it.

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Wiretapping Insecurity - New Law's Loopholes

I don't understand it - one would really like to think our lawmakers would have security in mind, on all levels and from all angles, when devising new policies about security. One would (ok at least I would) especially like to think that recommendations for policies provided by the NSA would be even more concerned with all levels of security. Well, it looks like that's not necessarily the case. See Susan Landau's Washington Post article about our new wiretapping law for the story. Is the NSA the new CIA?

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$100 Will Soon Buy A Laptop & $200 Will Send a Second To a Child in Rwanda...

Or Haiti, Cambodia or Afghanistan. Pretty cool, huh? According to BBC News, the laptops will be green or white and will work in the sun and with a variety of power options. The program is called G1G1 or "give one, get one". It's developed by OLPC (One Laptop Per Child).

They supposedly run on 10% or less energy than most laptops. Right now, according to the New York Times, prices are closer to $400 for 2 laptops, but that's still super cheap by American standards. I'm all over this. My daughter could use a computer of her own to learn on, and I love the idea of providing a computer for a child who probably won't have another opportunity to get one.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007 Presidential Matchmaker Feature

One of my favorite sites in the whole world (and as it turns out, it's locally run)is Tonight, I met the founder, Ben Rattray, who is - no surprise - both knowledgeable and passionate about enabling people to take action for important causes and candidates. While poking around further, I found a cool Presidential Matchmaker widget that matches you up with presidential candidates.

Surprise - my selection on issues matched me up with Hillary Clinton at 81%. The only reason it wasn't closer is because the issues are listed as one-liners so it's difficult to know exactly what they're supporting and in some cases I'd support something Hillary "strongly supports" and vice versa, so in reality we're probably more in the 95th percentile on the issues. I think the feature could actually be more specific, but it does a fairly good job laying out a variety of issues and it's fun to use.

At the bottom of my comparison list was Duncan Hunter at 22% in common with my views. The only place we remotely agreed was that I answered that I was ok with churches assisting people on welfare (although I might change my mind on this if I knew more about the issue) and he's strongly in favor. Why? I don't see why letting churches give food to some people in their communities is bad unless that means it's in lieu of the government giving funds. I don't think it should be an either-or proposition and I don't think the government should reduce welfare support just because churches might pitch in. I know the issue goes deeper than this, but that's not the purpose of this post. No way am I voting for Duncan Hunter in any universe, but always gets my vote.

You have to join and select the Politicians tab in order to see the Matchmaker feature. Enjoy.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Two Great Bay Area Politics & Technology Events This Week

Event #1 - Tomorrow (Tuesday) in Menlo Park -

Panel and meeting, no charge, where some interesting local innovators will be discussing the use of technology in politics and how we can utilize it to help elect Democrats in California in 2008.  Based on the panelists and host committee, it should be a really good discussion.

When: Tuesday, September 18th from 7 to 9 p.m.
Where: Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, 1100 Marsh Road, Menlo Park in the Olympic Room. (*Note new room.)
This is a free event, however you are encouraged to RSVP to contact[at]sanmateodemocrats[dot]org. Food will be provided.

Josh Becker, Founder of New Cycle Capital
David Chiu, Founder of Grassroots Enterprises
Joseph Green, Founder of Project Agape
Michelle Kraus, CEO of Digital Campaigns
Peter Leyden, Director of the New Politics Institute
David Pine, Former General Counsel for Handspring

Event #2 - Sunday in Berkeley -

September 23. "Politics 101 Meets Web 2.0: Democracy or Demagoguery?"  4 to 6 p.m., Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St., $15 at door for food, drink, and open mike discussion for digital and analog political activists. Political candidates of all stripes now have web sites, participate in social networks, and can respond to folks via YouTube. So are we closer to democracy?

See also: more information on the Hillside Club site.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Water Tables, Wasps, Web & Warfare

I can't keep track of everything going on, but amidst trying to order a water play table for my daughter, keep wasps (actually yellow jackets, I guess) away from her swingset, and follow news about how the Chinese are planning to attack us online (wtf?) along with all of the SVMoms' political activity after a week in the North Woods, I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed.

It's all thrilling, but I get off the plane going through email on my iPhone just trying to keep up on the most urgent. Honestly I feel like I'm in the middle of a Presidential campaign again. (Yeah, I know we are, but I'm not working 100 hours a week just on that this time around... at least not right now.)

Watching how the campaigns are doing, it's all good - Hillary is rocking in the print magazines, Edwards' online campaign is on fire, Barack is getting the newspapers going, and I'm hearing more about Thompson and Giuliani every day (although I might add that the Elle magazine article I read on the plane about Rudy's ways with women wasn't all that positive.) Keep up with the tech news about the campaigns at TechPresident or Politics Online. And in terms of national security, Gary Hart has launched a new organization - the American Security Project. I'm very excited about this. I'll blog more about it soon.

Back in the parenting world, plastics are everywhere and although the sky isn't falling, the oceans may be. My dad gave me this frightening chapter from Alan Weisman's book to read while I was in Minnesota. Our oceans are literally drowning in these toxic plastics everybody's ranting about being dangerous to children and fertility, affecting our planetary water table.

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Monday, September 03, 2007

Cows vs. Cars - Is McDonald's More Toxic for the Planet Than GM?

This is an article from late last year, but it was forwarded to me this week and really gives an interesting perspective on air pollution and the environment. Not that auto pollution isn't awful, but this article explains how livestock growth actually emits more greenhouse gas emissions. The solution? Consume less meat. I'm not saying go all-veggie necessarily. I've tried and failed. (I'll save that story for another time.) But reducing meat in the diet is generally considered healthier anyway, so why not give it a try for the sake of the environment?

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iPhone Guest Blog at TechMamas

I found some great reasons why the iPhone is a fantastic tool for active parents, and Beth Blecherman of TechMamas was kind enough to allow me to post them on her blog. I still have some issues with the iPhone, of course - it's not perfect - but it represents a major leap in technology and should still be lauded as such.

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Sunday, September 02, 2007

More on Mommybloggers & Media

Looks like the recent parenting controversy is giving candidates media spikes. See the TechPresident Technorati Tracking page where you'll notice all of the candidates received a significant spike from Thursday's posts - particularly John Edwards and Hillary Clinton. (Here again is the SVMoms post that received a ton of traffic). See also: Morra Aarons's take on the action. Mommybloggers aren't quite sure what to think of the attention though, understandably.

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Rosebud Revisited - Peter Finch & Thunderbird Theatre Production in SF

What do H. G. Wells, Orson Welles, Huey Lewis and Tom Stoppard have in common? "Aaah! Rosebud," a new play by KFOG News Director, Peter Finch, directed by Dylan Russell and produced by the Thunderbird Theatre Company. A comedy of Evil Dead proportions, featuring an "evil sled" (often referred to as a "she-devil" by multiple characters in the play), the play takes us "Back in Time" to retell the story of Citizen Kane, where a collection of crafty champion curlers fight a killer cabal.

The theme of the play twists the tale on why Kane's final word was "Rosebud", taking it in a comedic direction vs. a serious one. Finch, a veteran actor for the Thunderbird Theatre Company, wrote the play with the theatre company and several of their regular actors in mind according to the Chronicle article. He acts splendidly in the two roles he plays. My husband, brought up in Michigan, was cracking up at his Canadian curler accent as Mack.

We signed up for the play to see our friend, Maria Ross as Esther, belting an off-key musical number and taking on some not so pretty new personality traits. (I could tell you, but I don't like spoilers.) She didn't disappoint; nor did any of the other actors including Max Bernstein, who, proving the world is always indeed a small place, was a former co-worker of mine at NDA. (I didn't know he was in the play before perusing the cast list in the program.) Other actors include (in alphabetical order) Faith Aeryn, Shay Casey, Dirk Echols, Emma Fassler, Matt Gunnison, Jason Harding, Rob Herrmann, Z'ev Jenerik, and Nathan Tucker. I was always annoyed when they told us in playwriting classes the rule was to never write more than 8 actors into a play (due to the cost of production); kudos to Finch for ignoring that.

There are some really silly moments in "Aaah! Rosebud". My favorites included the "Washington Lobbyist" cardboard cut-out's place in Xanadu, some great newspaper headlines, and a lot of jabs at the musical, "Cats". And the song adds a feel-good element to the ending. The only problem I had with the plot was when the curlers (ok, so one brief spoiler required for this) are standing over a pristine sheet of ice that is being soiled by a bloody corpse and their first action is to be sad over their friend's death rather than appalled by the soiling of their frictionless practice surface. I'm kidding, of course, but as a figure skater, I had to make one joke about it.

The play takes many fun twists and turns, breaks the fourth wall on occasion in a Ferris Bueller-esque way, and follows baguette-length tangents toward dramatic and comedic ends. (Trust me, this will mean more when you see the play, which I highly recommend if you're at all a fan of the stage or comedy.) An easy hop into SOMA for a fun night, don't forget to stop by Basil for dinner beforehand.

At intermission the night we attended, the company gave away raffle prizes as well as some prizes for a random drawing for getting on their mailing list. My husband won the drawing for 3rd prize and I won first prize which included a photo with the character of my choice. I chose Mack, played by Peter Finch. (See the blurry photo of a Polaroid below.) All in all, it was a good time.

"Aaah! Rosebud" is running August 23rd through September 8th at the New Langton Arts theatre at 1246 Folsom Street and September 21st-22nd at the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts at 2640 College Ave. in Berkeley. Don't forget to support the San Francisco Bay Area Curling Club.

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

Two New Articles at

One of my writing clients is Acceller, recently ranked as one of Inc. magazine's top 500 fastest growing private companies (#54). They just launched their new Digital Landing site, where two of my articles have been published. (More to come.)

My first article, Tips for Installing a Cable Modem, covers the basics of setting up a cable modem in your home. The second article of mine they've published is called Digital Lifestyle Changes and Challenges - Adapting to a New Baby - something I know a little about. ;) It's been fun writing for them and I hope to continue to do so.

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