Tuesday, January 29, 2008
I wasn't expecting much, yet I was blown away. Before me and beside me were folks from the gazillions of little software companies right here in Vermont, representatives from the universities and colleges right here in Burlington, entrepreneurs, corporate types — all with one message.
The message I got was this. We are in a new age. It's not enough to be arts and literature-savvy. It's not enough to be a math or technology guru. The most successful people are not the ones with the bright, shiny MBAs, but the ones who know how to figure stuff out...how to ask questions...how to envision new applications to solve old problems...those who are not afraid of technology, but also know how to build a relationship with a human being.
I agree. The people I want to work with are the ones who experiment, who ask questions, who see problems and start working on solutions. People who get art, who get technology, and aren't afraid to try new things.
I wrote a profile of Physician's Computer Company last week for the Tech Biz Issue. I didn't put this in the article, but at one point, I asked Chip Hart what PCC looks for in candidates for its entry level jobs. He told me the most important thing is that people are smart. That they can pick things up quickly and think on their feet.
I think that's what Ann's getting at, too.
Rocking Out at Vermont 3.0
I can't believe I haven't mentioned this yet, but the Vermont 3.0 Creative/Tech Career Jam on Saturday really rocked.
Even Governor Jim Douglas got into the act! Here's a picture of my most memorable moment from the day — it's a shot of the guv attempting Joan Jett's "I Love Rock and Roll" on Guitar Hero. I'm the brown-haired chick in the tomato colored sweater in the background. Thanks to Patrick Martell of the Vermont Software Developers' Alliance for the picture.
The guy standing next to Governor Douglas is Dave Contois, of Contois Music. Dave teaches kids to play guitar using Guitar Hero. He's one of the only music educators in the country who's harnessing the popularity of the game to get kids to learn instruments. Pretty amazing stuff, actually. Dan Bolles' story on him is the most popular article on our website this week — it's getting a lot of traffic from reddit.com.
Dave Contois was showing the Governor his set-up shortly after Vermont 3.0 opened, around 10 a.m. I happened to be standing there because I was introducing Dave's presentation on his teaching techniques later in the morning, and I was coming over to introduce myself.
I saw the governor talking with Dave and said, "You should try it." He shook his head and said "no, no, not me." But then Dave Contois was like, "No, you HAVE to try it. It's so EASY. I'll set it up for you. Here, you HAVE to try it." The guv couldn't refuse.
He was a good sport. He gave it a try. He hit a few notes. But ultimately, the game interrupted him to say "Song Failed." Ouch! In all fairness, that happened to me the first time I tried it, too. I wish he'd taken another crack at it, because it takes a few minutes to figure out how to work the guitar, but he was done. "That's why I didn't want to try," he said sheepishly. "I guess I'm not a guitar hero."
But you could be, Governor, you could be!
That's when Dave Contois' 7-year-old son Trevor said, "Let me show you how to do it." The kid set the game to expert and — of course — played it flawlessly.
A bunch of Vermont blogs have covered the event in one way or another. Bill Simmon was there. Julie Lerman spoke at the event and put up a few posts about it. Here's a local PR guy who was impressed with our use of social media to promote the thing. Here's a short report from Matthew Davis, the dude who drew the spaceman. Here's a more detailed report from Larry Keyes, of the vtSDA.
And a great summary from someone who wasn't involved in organizing this thing — Cairn Cross of Vermont Tiger. An excerpt:
There was one theme that emerged time and again. Namely, sheer amazement at the number of interesting companies exhibiting and the fact that most were not well known. My job puts me in touch with optimistic entrepreneurs and high-growth Vermont companies every day so its not news to me that there are some fascinating things going on in the state. Increasingly though, when I read mainstream Vermont media I feel like my daily experience is a parallel universe to a Vermont of failing companies and fleeing young people.
I looked in vain for an article about the Career Jam and the exhibiting companies in the Free Press online on Sunday morning but did not see anything.
That’s unfortunate … and typical.
Yup. Although honestly, I think the Free Press didn't report on it because Seven Days was so heavily involved in organizing it. I didn't see him, but I heard that their new publisher was there talking to people, and they had a table at the event, so they definitely knew about it. They actually wrote a short article about it on Friday that appeared in the back of section A. Not surprisingly, it mentioned that there would be media companies like the Burlington Free Press at the event... but did not mention Seven Days. Ha!
Here's Eva Sollberger's video wrap-up, for those who missed the event and want to see what it was like. And from the traditional media — here's a report from WCAX and a preview from VPR. There will definitely be more of these shindigs. Thanks to everyone who made it possible!
Monday, January 28, 2008
Vegas Vacation Update
Thanks to everyone who expressed concerns about my parents. Turns out they're fine.
Better than fine, actually. They were staying on the 7th floor, so none of their stuff was damaged. They got it all back. And they got to spend a free night in the nearby Bellagio, which, they tell me, is very posh.
So apart from the initial terror of seeing flames leaping from the top of their hotel, they had an ok time of it. Not sure how much money they lost gambling, though. I think I'm glad they don't tell me...
Friday, January 25, 2008
Fire at Vegas Monte Carlo!
The Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas is on fire. There are flames leaping out of the top of it. Looks pretty bad. I'm watching it on my laptop in my office.
I'm posting about this because I just got a phone call from my mom, who wanted to let me know that she's ok. She and my dad, and some of my aunts and uncles are in Vegas this week, and are all staying at the Monte Carlo. They're fine, apparently. They've been evacuated from the casino, are standing nearby.
The pictures on CNN.com are pretty scary. I'm glad they're all outside. Their stuff might be toast, though.
Not surprisingly, the CNN is asking people to email and send photos or anecdotes. Citizen journalists are always useful in disasters...
Monday, January 21, 2008
AAN video presentation
Next week, I'm headed to San Francisco with three of my co-workers for the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies' web publishing conference. Eva Sollberger and I are giving a presentation on how altweeklies can integrate video into their editorial operations.
I bring this up for two reasons:
1) To excuse the fact that I've been neglecting my blog.
2) To ask for input, should you have any. What do you like or dislike about the way Seven Days does video? We're going to be citing examples of great newspaper videos that we like. Any recommendations?
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Vermont YouTube of the Day
A German film crew traveled to Bolton recently to spend a day with cartoonist Alison Bechdel. Alison's book Fun Home apparently just appeared in German.
Alison made a little movie of this "excrutiatingly boring" experience, which actually ends up being pretty entertaining. I like the part where the road is blocked by a fallen tree.
I was expecting to see my old friend Don the Postmaster when the crew drove up to the Jonesville Post Office, but no. Maybe the Germans got him on film. He's quite a character.
Here's Alison's blog post on the taping.
Our food editor, Suzanne Podhaizer, is working on a story about virtual cooking, and she needs your help, gamers! Here's her plea:
Are you a whiz at whipping up fried gyoza and meat pies for Cooking Mama, or preparing gooey spider cake and curiously tasty omelettes in WOW? Do you spend hours plucking pumpkins and grapes for your potions in The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion? Do you do something fun with food in Second Life?
If you do, I need your help. I'm working on an article about virtual cooking, and would love to chat with a few Vermonters who like to stir things up in cyberspace.
If you're willing, send me an e-mail that includes your name, contact info (phone numbers are very helpful) and the type of virtual cooking you do.
Email Suzanne at email@example.com. Spread the word.
Monday, January 14, 2008
Random Family Blog Post You Should Read
There are several blogs I read on a daily basis. Most of them are about news, politics, technology or journalism. But there's one personal diary-type blog that I read religiously. It's about my partner's cousin (Heather), her husband (Braydon), and the two twin boys they adopted from Haiti (Kyle and Owen).
I haven't linked to it because the Johnson-McCormick family lives in Pennsylvania, and the content isn't necessarily relevant to what I do here. But it would be a shame not to share today's priceless post about Heather's trip with the boys to the grocery store. It's both unsettling and hilarious.
It seems that ever since I started going to the grocery store with K & O (which was, basically, very soon after they came home from Haiti), there is always a story to tell about each and every trip we make. For some reason it is in the grocery store that we have our most interesting (read between the lines) experiences. Today was no exception. Today, in addition to all the normal mundane stuff that occurs when you bring two three year old boys to the grocery store with you, not just one but two interesting things happened!
Setting the scene — Huge grocery store. The boys were in the kind of cart where in between the actual food bin part of the cart and the part that you push, there is a small bench that fits two kids. K & O are sitting squeezed together and with me pushing the cart their heads were just below my head. These stories are true stories...
From the Archives
I just spent another couple hours posting stories from our archives. I wanted to take note of three of them, all from the April 11, 2001 issue:
• I saw a story not long ago about Jamiel Terry, son of prominent anti-abortion activist Randall Terry. Jamiel came out — yep, he's gay — in 2004. It reminded me that Peter Freyne had once written about a spat between the Terrys and former Republican State Rep. Nancy Sheltra. During the civil unions debate, the Terrys came to Vermont to lobby against gay marriage. After the Terrys took off, Freyne reported this weird episode, in which Jamiel accuses Sheltra of having had a crush on his dad. Very strange. Whatever happened with this? I guess I have to keep reading in the Freyne archive to find out.
• Remember those clocks that were on display years ago at Burlington International Airport, the ones that hung above the down escalator on the second floor that you'd see after you got off your flight? Here's a profile of the artist responsible. I always loved those clocks.
• Here's a story about Burlington's Poets Mimeo Cooperative. I remember when this one came out. I was one of the organizers who started the Burlington Poetry Slam, and I used to run readings at the Rhombus Gallery. The Poets Mimeo writers were essentially our predecessors. I still have a bunch of their books, including a copy of Robert Caswell's Exiled from North Street. I haven't forgotten you, Michael Breiner, Anna Blackmer, Bud Lawrence and Bill Davis. Even if I have stopped writing poetry.
Vermont Lawmakers Win Web Awards
Just got a call from Will Wiquist, Sen. Bernie Sanders' press secretary, about the Congressional Management Foundation's 2007 Golden Mouse Awards. The CMF analyzes Congressional websites, and has produced a lengthy report detailing the woeful way in which our legislators are failing to grasp the usefulness and importance of the web.
The CMF evaluates websites based on design and layout, constituent services, legislative content, press resources, communication tools and state and district information.
According to the report, the most common letter grade earned by Congressional websites was a D. More than half of the sites that got a D last year repeated that dismal performance, or slipped to an F rating. Shame!
Here's one of my favorite findings:
While 98.3% of of Member sites have content about national issues, just 63.1% of them included information from the 110th Congress.
The 110th Congress meets from January 2007-January 2009. How hard is it in this day and age to update your website once every few months?
Will Wiquist called me because Bernie won a "Silver Mouse Award," the equivalent of an "A." Both Rep. Peter Welch and Sen. Patrick Leahy won Bronze mice (an "A-"). Leahy slipped from his Gold finish in 2002, 2003 and 2006.
Here's the press release from Bernie's site.
“Senator Sanders’ Web site shows that he understands the value of creating a virtual office to reach specific audiences who have come to expect having their needs met online,” [CMF executive director Beverly Bell] added. “We congratulate Senator Sanders for having a Web site that is among the best-of-the-best on Capitol Hill.”
Bernie's "Web site" is pretty nice. There's an audio/video archive, a photo gallery and a flash spotlights slideshow. Cool. The Sanders web staff might, however, want to include a link to the report announcement on the CMF site. Just a suggestion.