Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sebelius is Ready for DC and Coming to SF

As I wrote at MOMocrats today, I'm a big fan and supporter of Kathleen Sebelius. I may have mentioned that on this blog before as well. Essentially she took on a tough job as governor of Kansas - she's a woman Democrat in a state traditionally governed by Republican white guys. Mostly anyway. Now she may be our next best hope for breaking the glass ceiling if Hillary Clinton can't get the nomination. Kathleen Sebelius is on Obama's short list for a VP running mate. And she's a seasoned executive leader with a great record. So I'm excited to meet her tomorrow night in SF for an event where she'll be speaking. I'll be writing about that in the next couple of days.

There's an interesting article by Ben Adler on about the women who might be good VP options for Obama.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Tomorrow We May See Santa on Mars

The debate about what created the "canals" on Mars and whether it had polar caps like Earth's has gone on for a while now and no new evidence has been found even with the various missions conducted thus far. We're finally making some progress collecting data samples in Martian soil now over the past 10 years, and the latest mission with the Phoenix craft will hopefully move us closer to an answer.

The San Francisco Chronicle has a good chronology of the history of the Martian missions in an article by David Perlman. It covers a bit of detail as to what's different about this mission and its risks. Given the recent history of Mars robotic crafts, I worry about the landing, but I have faith in NASA.

So soon we may know - did Mars have water? ice? snow? If so, did Santa go there? Is he an alien? Are elves from Mars?

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Indiana Jones Predictable But Satisfying

Until a few years ago, Harrison Ford was always my favorite movie star to oogle and I still love his films, but at one point I realized he was much closer to my parents' age than mine, so I reluctantly moved on... as does the series with the new film. However, I snuck away yesterday for a couple of hours' break while in the midwest, feeling far removed from the wildfires. (We bought the tickets before the fire began or I probably wouldn't have gone, but anyway, there's not much we can do from here.) I really enjoyed the movie, but it was partly because I knew what to expect and partly because they knew exactly what to give their audience.

Anyway, the one spoiler I will give away is this: don't be late for the movie or you'll miss some great action and a lot of plot setup. Otherwise, there's a Star Wars line, a lot of family fun, and of course bugs, snakes, and precious artifacts. It's perhaps not as suspenseful as other films, but it does a really good job tying all of the previous films and characters in the series together. It's fun that it's set in the 50's when Indiana Jones is older because it adds an element of American Graffiti to the picture. There are also some definite Spielberg moments mixed in. I won't expand on that or I'd give them away. Anyway, it's fun, surprisingly sweet, nostalgic and clever. And Harrison Ford still has his mojo at 66.


Friday, May 23, 2008

The Internet is Helping Us in Natural Disasters, But Not Enough

I just published a new post on the Silicon Valley Moms Blog about what's now being called the "Summit Fire" in the Santa Cruz Mountains near Watsonville. As a kid who grew-up in tornado country, I was completely clueless about wildfires until yesterday. Now I've been studying everything available online to track the blaze because it's just a few miles from my sister's dream home, her animals, and one of the most beautiful pieces of property I've ever seen in my life. I don't know if I'm at liberty to describe it, but even if I did, still, it's one of those places where you have to see it to believe it.

In any case, what I learned over the past 24 hours is that although we have 2700 firefighters on the scene to battle these fires, we only get semi-accurate updates about once a day about where the fires really are. People are in their homes waiting for calls or knocks on the door to evacuate. The neighbors who may or may not have phones or power communicate to the best of their ability, but they're still not certain how far away it is. They see the smoke or possibly the flames, but it's difficult to discern the distance. I found one live blog site where there was some minimal conversation via locals about what was going on to help sift through the mystery, but that was it.

So what I want to know is where do we go from here? What is the future of emergency response online? It has to be better than a few news sites and links. I'm not saying what we have now isn't good. I'm happy we have the resources we do. But I know from my technology background that we can do better. We've put together phenomenal outreach programs and online activism to raise money and repair devastated areas. Why not create a place where communities can create ad-hoc emergency response sites as they arise? It's possible something like this already exists, but not enough of us know about it.

What I found was one site for firefighters that said how to listen on short range scanners, some articles on the local newspaper site, a few maps that are only updated daily, the state fire site with data updated periodically (like every day or half a day), one satellite image of the fire, brief TV and radio coverage, a state road closures page, one live blog on the local news station web site where people exchanged notes, and a totally overloaded fire detection map at that nobody can use because everybody's trying to get to it. And when watching the news and hearing from locals, it seems that the firefighters and police are keeping things barricaded for safety and not allowing any information transferral during the process.

Fires are dangerous, but if people can use personal weather stations and webcams like linked on the Weather Underground, why not have a system that applies locals as information centers online and includes what's coming across the waves from emergency support services? Anyone out there have an idea of how to do this?

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

As Obama Evades Issues, McCain Uses Web to Make Them His

John McCain's web site currently has some really great images and big text emphasizing his concern for the environment. He's got a little whiz-bang presentation that really says nothing but looks fancy and makes people feel safer about his take on "climate change" and cap and trade. It shows how jobs will improve in the system (oversimplified to say the least). The use of green and pretty pictures is effective in grabbing attention.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton's web site is begging - on the splash page, no less - for cash. Which is actually very effective. And Barack Obama's got John Edwards next to him in images on his splash and home pages, like they're a couple or something, they're so cute and cozy. At least Obama is working for his last remaining delegates.

However, yesterday when a reporter in Michigan asked Obama to give her a real policy response and he answered with "hold on, sweetie," never to come back with a word about the issue at hand. That's already biting him.

I personally am sick of how little attention the environment is getting in this election. I'm really amazed given all that Al Gore and others have done over the past few years to raise awareness. It's pitiful. But what's worse is that the Republican candidate is the only one talking about it. (It being "climate change", of course, never "global warming.") Democrats have been the only ones giving the environment more than a second thought for years, and now McCain is trying to take the issue and make it his.

Tactics-wise, he's doing a better job than the others. He's in a position where he can talk about whatever he wants right now until a nominee is selected from the Democratic side, so it's smart to focus on the environment now, before he's forced back onto talking about the war and the economy 24x7. Still, I wish there were more dialogue about what needs to be done, and I wish we had real leadership on the issue from someone we can trust will make it happen.

FWIW, I'll have a post up on MOMocrats about this topic later today or tomorrow.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Two Great Chronicle Articles: Web to TV & Blogging with Babies

In today's Chronicle, two interesting articles:

First, "Web sites enable campaign TV ads on the cheap" by Joe Garofoli tells about how the web and sites like and are making video ads easier and cheaper to create and disseminate, and it discusses the ramifications of this in terms of the presidential campaign.

Micah Sifry of techPresident (and the Personal Democracy Forum) is quoted about how technology and "mass participation" is changing the face of politics. Anyone who has worked in a statewide or national campaign knows that the majority of campaign budgets go to TV advertising even now with the Internet gaining speed and digital democracy becoming a more prevalent term.

Still, the majority of voters are reached through television and it's expensive. This is why the Internet staff always takes a back seat in terms of campaign strategy; it's just a fact that television still makes the rules. I see the tides turning, but it will take time. Sites like these will help with the transition to new media as new generations of voters who are online gradually become the majority.

Second, one of my co-contributors at the Silicon Valley Moms Blog Group, Charlene Li is mentioned in Ellen Lee's article, "In parenthood, sometimes a blog is born," which I know from personal experience has many truths. Granted, I wasn't twittering from the delivery room, but blogging helped keep me sane while on bed rest and going through a lengthy postpartum recovery.

The article also quotes Elisa Camahort Page, BlogHer cofounder, and it throws around buzzwords like Web 2.0 as much as possible to get socnet cred. What is most poignant about this piece to me are the stats about how much moms are targeted now in advertising online. It's always been that way on TV, but now mommybloggers are discovering their power with corporations and other sponsors to this effect. Beth Blecherman has a great post up at SVMoms that touches on this, and I think it may be eligible for some kind of "most links in a post" award.

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Friday, May 09, 2008

MOMocrats on Blog Talk Radio Tomorrow

I recently joined the MOMocrats, and this great group of women are undertaking a variety of different methods for driving attention to the real issues that interest moms, particularly Democratic moms. This is an excerpt from my friend, Glennia Campbell's email to the MOMocrats about a new adventure starting tomorrow at Blog Talk Radio:

"The MOMocrats are launching a podcast on Saturday, May 10 at 3 pm Eastern, 12 pm Pacific on Blog Talk Radio. It will be 45 minutes long. We're hoping some of our friends will listen in and give us feedback. This is a pilot show, just to test the timing and how the thing works, so it will be rough. If you could listen and let us know what you think, that would be awesome! Just go to: to listen in live at the time listed above, or anytime thereafter for the archive."

So there you have it. Glennia, Stefania and Joanne will be on. Enjoy.

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Internet Archive Wins Settlement with FBI

From the Chronicle, the Internet Archive recently won a settlement with the FBI about a "national security letter" i.e. government request for private information that was sent to them demanding they turn over data that they probably don't even have. The Archive, legally considered an online library, for those who don't know, was founded by Brewster Kahle who is also on the Board of the EFF. They keep books online as well as web sites, and they run the Wayback machine, a great tool for finding older versions of sites online. (Want to restore from an older backup of your site that's gone? Try the Wayback machine.) Anyway, Brewster's a good guy who just wants to share information with people, so it looks like after 4 months and $10,000 in donated legal services, the FBI got off his back. It's a good article. I haven't spoken with my EFF buddies about this particular case, but I'm guessing they're happy a precedent's been set to show others that the Patriot Act induced loophole can be fought.

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Monday, May 05, 2008

What Beatles Song Describes You? Mine is "Hey Jude"

facebook has a multitude of fabulous and silly apps designed to suck up all of your time and keep you up way too late... tonight's culprit is the "Which Beatles Song Describes Your Life Right Now?" app, which doesn't necessarily describe you at that exact moment, but it gives a pseudo-personality assessment with a musical twist.

Mine is "Hey Jude", saying I'm "a little hesitant when it comes to taking action" (sometimes true), "extremely capable and full of life and hope" (mostly true), and "a natural leader" (I'll leave that up to other people to decide. It also says "you are slowly learning to let people into your heart and let go of your fears." Slow being the operative word there. I found this because one of my facebook friends had her song as "Here Comes the Sun", one of my all time favorites. Maybe I'm "Hey Jude" wanting more of "Here Comes the Sun".

Anyway, have a gander at the app if you are killing time or sucked into the facebook abyss.

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Sunday, May 04, 2008

Spam Turned 30 Today

From the Interesting People List - Dave Farber sent out this clip from ABC News (where he was interviewed) re: today being the 30th anniversary of the sending of the first spam email. Here is the link. It's amusing.