Sunday, January 27, 2008

Edit globally, groan locally

I have taken on an assignment for an e-learning site that involves editing contributed articles from business people from all over the world. It turns out that entrepreneurs from India are very interested in being published on a U.S. site.

They love to write in English, but their English is fluid rather than fluent. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that Indian business people write in a dialect of English. However, for a non-Indian website, this dialect sounds odd and isn't very clear. Editing it is a challenge.

The Indian writers keep injecting the phrase "One tight slap!" which, I've discovered, means "Wake up!" Or "Take notice!" I rather like it, and hope it will catch on here.

They favor phrases that we'd consider notorious cliches, like "the bigger the better" and like to put them in quotes with initial caps and a concluding exclamation mark ("The Bigger the Better!"). And they love closing their articles with energetic exhortations to success. Like this inscrutable paragraph:

"Patience, Persistence and Handwork -- These three words are self explanatory, and beside above stated qualities, you must love your work and self driven. Also, remember one more thing – sitting idol doesn’t mean you are doing, noting at all; this time has its own importance. Taking time off from work is Good. On the flip side; you have to check all the closed doors and no stone should be left unturned…..Success is Just few steps away!!"

Yes! Yes! Er, no. No. Toning this stuff down is not all that difficult, but doing it leaves me feeling rather like a wet blanket. Or perhaps "A Wet Blanket!"

Monday, January 21, 2008

Better than a Google search

When I'm feeling lost, I don't think even this could help. But on the other hand, I don't stray far from civilization...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

It's warm in San Francisco

Yes, those are rhodies in bloom.

Sling bag

Bags and blossoms

I saw about half of the Macworld Expo today, focusing on computer bags. The preceding entry gives you a peek at a new model of sling bag Brenthaven will begin offering in May; many, many more photos and product reviews to come in a day or two.

Went to a lovely dinner party with a bunch of technology journalists at Roots last night. The place specializes in organic, locally grown food. I had a smoked-trout salad with horseradish dressing and a dish of spicy shrimp on a bed of grits with bits of bacon. Wow. Oh, and we all shared the most amazing french fries sprinkled with herbs and parmesan. Everyone at the table raved about the entrees, particularly the flatiron steak. Next time.

Getting up early for the keynote has me a bit grouchy. It's always interesting to hear Steve speak, but the drama of last year's iPhone introduction must have spoiled me a bit. After the keynote I did the Expo and then went to Long Life Noodles in the Sony Metreon food court for some steamed shu mai and edamame. Then I walked up Powell Street to the top of Nob Hill and halfway back down the hill to my hotel at Union Square. The Chancellor is a well kept-up old place, very comfy and quiet -- now that I've gotten used to the streetcar bells beneath my window.

I ran into a couple of former iTunes colleagues today at the Expo, and tomorrow am hoping to have coffee with another former colleague. Tomorrow evening two friends from Seattle will be at Macworld and I'm wondering if I can talk them into trying out a classic San Francisco French restaurant, Le Central. San Francisco has such a wonderful 1950s vibe.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Kitchen prima donna

What's a tutu doing in the window at Williams Sonoma on Union Square? Turns out there are tutus in shop windows all over San Francisco, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the San Francisco ballet.

[photo sent from iPhone]

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Off to California

I'm off to Macworld tomorrow. Back late Friday night, and then spending Saturday (with Zorg!) at the various activities for the English (country dance) Ball. So I might not blog until next Sunday, or, on the other hand, if it's particularly hilarious in San Francisco, I might have a lot to say. The airport antics often inspire me.

Stay tuned. And be sure to check out all the wonderful bloggers listed in the sidebar. (My New) Life Out Here has been hilarious recently. And The Zorg has the legal perspective on the Gizmodo flap; you'll find out what a "tortfeasor" is.

Friday, January 11, 2008

No cold snaps

January. Seattle. Snapdragons.

I was out looking at the buds on the pear tree, the maples, and the clematis when I realized there are still sages, snapdragons, chrysanthemums, bellflowers and a few other summer/fall plants blooming.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Ups and downs

Nothing lasts forever, and last night my beloved yoga/resistance training classes came to an end. After 15 months of just having to turn up at our little make-shift studio two or three times a week and have an incredible workout with a wonderful group of's time to move on.

We've sort of suspected this was coming, so I've used the past few months to research other classes. The problem is that a physically challenging workout is hard work and not something I enjoy unless the teacher is gifted and the other participants are full of good energy. (For those of you who are contra dancers, it's just like dances: A dynamic caller and a spirited group of dancers will make all the difference.)

I've gotten discouraged when I've encountered instructors who were sanctimonious, touchy-feely, or condescending. And I've felt like I was wasting precious time and money when the workout wasn't sufficiently varied or challenging. And it's been difficult but necessary for me to accept that some of the African dance classes I find so energizing and inspiring are too dangerous for someone my age (lots of leaping, running, jumping, and twisting).

Fortunately, I've found two promising programs. One is a belly dance studio. They kicked off a new series of classes this evening, with a delightful teacher and a wonderful class of women (and one man)! The other program, yoga and aerobics with live African drumming, is, unfortunately, up on Capitol Hill. That's certainly not my favorite place to drive to during the tail end of rush hour. But the class, led by an extremely dynamic exercise physiologist and dancer, is worth it.

Oddly, the components of the yoga program I haven't figured out how to replace are the yoga and weight training. However, after 15 months I know the routines well enough that I can do one of them at home for 90 minutes, once a week. If that doesn't work, it may be time to sign up for the classes at the local Vinyasa yoga studio...

Damn it, I just want my old yoga classes back.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Cat on the keyboard

A friend sent me a link today to PawSense, a software product for detecting a cat on your keyboard and shooing it away before it can do any damage.

PawSense is a digital variant of the battery-powered Cat Scram. The Cat Scram emits a beam that, if the cat walks through it, triggers a high-pitched noise humans can't hear but which is unpleasant to cats.

Both devices would probably work well with young kittens that roam around climbing onto anything. But I'm dubious of their efficacy with older cats. Cats aren't on your keyboard for entertainment. They're on your keyboard because they want your attention.

If a cat walks on the keyboard to get your attention, and you give it negative reinforcement, the ignored or rejected cat will simply move over one inch to the next item on your desk and go to work there. We have one cat that removes pushpins from the bulletin board, another that pats the screens with its paws, and a third one that shoves mugs of tea, staplers, pens and anything else movable onto the floor. It has no problem moving a full mug of tea across the desk and over the edge.

Zorg takes a very hard line with cats on his desk, but does that help? Not really. In his case, the cats cannily leave the room and sit (out of squirt gun range) in the hall, yowling until the paint peels. Then Zorg puts on earphones and turns up the volume. Now, who is really winning?

(Note: And PawSense and Cat Scram don't work with deaf cats like Sheba.)

As an amateur cat psychologist, I recommend a long-range, big-picture approach. If I had at cat on my keyboard, I'd stop everything I was doing, figure out what the cat wanted, give it the food, open the door, play "Mousie," or whatever it took for five minutes, and then go back to work. If you treat your cats this way, they won't be driven to get on your keyboard or destroy your desk to get your attention. Mine just sit by my chair and tap my leg politely with one paw.

Doesn't this just make you want to run over to PAWS and pick up a few cats?

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Social networking: Infested with "parasites"

A number of my clients do work that's involved with or affected by online social networking. I have a basic familiarity with social networking sites for professional reasons, and also for my own business and personal networking purposes.

For many years, "social networking" online meant subscribing to mailing lists or perhaps using a bulletin board site with a graphic interface that allowed members to post comments (in threads), post pictures, and attach or post files that others could download. A good example of this would be Yahoo Groups.

It was only about six or so years ago that more robust social networking sites came into being. The best-known is (the now rather outdated and ad-infested) It pre-populated its databases with the names of schools and companies, set up biographical templates that made it easy for individuals to post profile information, and enabled individuals to contact each other via the site without having to divulge personal contact information (such as email address or telephone number). For quite a while, and various online dating websites were the major companies in the social networking space; then LinkedIn set up a widely admired business networking site where members' privacy is protected because the only way to reach someone you don't already know is through a mutual contact. (If I'm applying for a job at Company X, I can see who in my network is linked to someone at Company X, and I can ask for an introduction.)

Meanwhile, MySpace and Facebook had jazzed up this concept for teens and 20-somethings, with much less emphasis on privacy and much more on playfulness. Facebook recently caught on with grownups, and even more recently Twitter stepped in with its charmingly quirky interface for viewing short updates from friends. Meanwhile, Biznik ("business networking that doesn't suck") has made a bid to mix online social networking with marketing and live "indie" business events in major cities, offering seminars, happy hours, and even conferences.

All seemed well and good.

Until recently, when a whole new crop of sites and applications turned up and wanted to be "extensions" of my LinkedIn or Facebook experience: I tried out a few of them because friends suggested it. Big mistake. Once you sign up, you just can't get these people out of your (email) hair.

What I find fascinating about these sites—which I've come to think of as "parasites"—is that no matter how much email they send me, I still can't figure out what on earth it is that they do that is not almost the same as what is already being done for me perfectly adequately by LinkedIn or Facebook.

They seem to fill absolutely no need whatsoever—except to invite me to interactions that are at best benign online Tupperware parties and at worst annoying pyramid schemes involving any data I've placed on Facebook. Facebook is coming dangerously close to "jumping the shark" as more and more of these creepy little data suckers (often in the guise of amusing diversions) try to cozy up to it; I was cheered to hear that Facebook swatted the wrist of a well-known blogger for violating the site's terms of use when he gave a company called Plaxo access to his account to test a beta of theirs that can "scrape" (harvest) the data of people in someone's Facebook network and move it to the Plaxo site.

I remain a huge fan of Twitter, but suspect that the day is soon coming when I will find myself forced to read Tweets from people (or businesses) I don't want to follow, or get stuck reading ads in order to use Twitter. And today I got email via Biznik sent by an illiterate teenager from a third-world country looking for a, er, date. Lovely. (I reported it to Biznik, but I don't intend to spend my time flagging kinky member profiles for them.)

If this keeps up, I'm going to retreat back to LinkedIn, pull up the drawbridge, and order a cauldron of boiling oil.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

New year, new calendars

I like a good calendar. That's why I often give calendars for Christmas gifts. There are two types of calendar I like so much that it just isn't the new year until I've posted one above my desk and one in the kitchen. The one above the desk is the Dilbert calendar. Having worked for so many years in massively dysfunctional organizations, I find the Dilbert humor still resonates (and probably always will).

The calendar in the kitchen is the Kliban cat calendar (pictured at right.) I guess I like Kliban cats because all of them are classic tabbies—what my mom used to call "alley cats"—and because they are so entitled.

[Pause while I go into the kitchen to feed the neighbor's cat; yes, the neighbor's cat eats dinner in our kitchen. Long story.]

The Kliban cat on the cover of the calendar looks just like our Zoe—big, good-natured, and a bit goofy.

Zoe has taken to vocalizing quite a bit recently; I'm wondering if it's because the neighbor's cat is a very accomplished meower who "sings" to get our attention, and Zoe is trying to compete.