Monthly Archives: March 2003

Namaste

As we enter the second week of the war against Iraq — variously being perceived as the war for oil, the war against Muslims, the war of American imperialism, the war of liberation, the war against wmd, and the war for democracy — I figure it’s a good time to talk about perception and reality. The following probably won’t be humorous, and may not even be particularly informative, but since I believe what we’re really fighting is a conflict of world views, I feel compelled to add mine.

What is Real?

Like you, I’ve been watching the war on TV from the comfortable vantage point of my pillow fort. I’ve also been watching the picture-in-picture talking heads and the press conferences.

To me, there’s almost no synchrony between the two. It’s as if what I see and hear from the journalists and videographers is completely different from what I am told at the press conferences. Sometimes I wonder if they are even talking about the same events.

We have an amazing amount of access to what’s *really* going on in the war: there are embedded journalists all over the place. Each journalist has a small piece of an increasingly complicated mosaic of events; one reporter will have seen the exemplary Muslim student Hasan throw the grenade into his officer’s tent, while another will realize one of his comrades is missing in action. Reporters have seen civilian casualties, friendly fire, unexpected Iraqi convoys attacking US Marines and ferocious weather.

Brian Williams, the blow-dried Ermangildo Zegna-clad anchor of CNBC’s evening news went up on a routine aviation mission and ended up spending two days trapped in a desert sandstorm, his Chinook helicopter and three others protected by a platoon of Marines themselves trapped for 86 hours in the back of Bradleys.

Hampton Sides of the New Yorker opted not to become embedded after a Nuclear, Biological and Chemical training session in Kuwait described to him in graphic detail what happens when you inhale mustard gas and it eats your esophagus. He traded in his gas mask an hour before he was supposed to accompany a military unit. (www.newyorker.com) I’m proud of him, because he wussed out and wrote about it.

Yet from all that we “see,” what do we really know? Next to nothing. Clearly, the Bush Administration has a point of view on why we went to war, how the war is going, and what the outcome will be. The embedded journalists have another, and the pundits still another. The families of the troops have one, too, and because I am fortunate enough to have friends in India, Pakistan, London, Switzerland and South Africa, I regularly receive both formal and informal writings about the war from outside the United States propaganda bubble.

A certain number of “facts” are apparent, but they have to do with sandstorms, troop movements, unforseen attacks by paramilitary Iraqi loyalists and unexpected events. The war is clearly more difficult than it was made out to be beforehand, and we are seen by many Iraqis as imperialist invaders rather than as humanitarian liberators. The mideast editor of Newsweek pointed this out last night on the NBC news.

Has the Defense Department made a big mistake letting Americans in on how little they actually know about Iraq, how shamefully inadequate the intelligence has been about Saddam Hussein’s grip on the country?

Perhaps someone in the military is thinking that. Twenty-five years of PR experience have taught me to try to prevent the unexpected, to coach my clients, and to ask no questions without known answers.

Yet for Americans, this full-on access to even the most horrendous information is a gift, and it has already been given to us, never to be returned; it allows us to form our own opinions, despite what we are being “fed” by “authoritative sources who speak on condition of anonymity.”

In the end, this access to information and the ability to make up our own minds and act on our opinions is the true joy of being an American. If there is any reason for this war, that’s it: we’re preserving our right to our own opinion.

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I’m testing a piece of

I’m testing a piece of software for a friend of mine. I do this often enough that I have another friend (the great Pat Borjon) as personal tech support, so when my system crashes from driver conflicts I have immediate help.

This won’t crash my system, because it’s a piece of web technology at a site called VUXO.com. Vuxo is actually a way to deliver content to web browsers. Corporations can use it for knowledge management and information sharing.

I, however, am using the “My Vuxo” variant, which allows me to rotate my home page among my favorites.

So What?

So a lot. When you go to the Vuxo site, it says “tired of the same old home page, day after day?” After almost ten years on the Internet, I am. Even if it’s the New York Times. And certain sites I’ve bookmarked yet never see. So Vuxo, a free browser enhancement that lets me change my home page without opening up the Internet Tools and making a permanent change, seems cool.

Vuxo intrigued me. When I signed up, I also had the option to let Vuxo rotate some of their favorites among my favorites. Admittedly, I haven’t lived with this for very long, but here’s what’s happened so far:

I opened by browser and was greeted by the site for “Hot or Not,” which I had never visited before. I had heard of it, but now I’ve experienced it.

I opened a new window and there was the Tech Oasis “Get Involved” page, which I hadn’t seen since it had been updated.

The next rotation was to worstcasescenarios.com, where I learned how to jump out of a building into a dumpster, start someone’s heart with a defibrillator, exit from a sinking car…you get the picture.

And then it changed back to http://www.lifeclinic.com, a site on which I used to record my blood pressure, weight, and pulse so I could see if there were trends.

Then it’s at housejewelry.com, a site I bookmarked so I could get fancy dimmer switches and cabinet knobs for my new home.

This morning, it’s at Calculink, a site that puts you in touch with all sorts of calculators for everything from body fat to mortgage rates.

I believe a tool like this could be at least entertaining, and perhaps even educational. The best learning (for me) always occurs accidentally, and the random nature of My Vuxo is right up my alley.

However, the corporate alternative is probably quite a bit more controlled, rotating among things your employer might think you needed to know, but might never seek out by yourself: details about the company benefits, for example, or sales figures from the worst region.

The corporate demo suggests you might bookmark all the site of your competitors, and thus be assured that you’d visit them regularly and see what’s happening in the competitive space. I really like that one.

Another suggestion is to use Vuxo to look at the sites of your customers, to know better what’s going on in their businesses.

And you can always do what I did: let Vuxo choose, so you have an appropriately randomized view of the outside world.

Reminder: A new edition of “The Outside World,” Stealthmode Partners’ monthly resource for entrepreneurs, will be published soon. This edition will feature an article on why business plans don’t get funded. Sign up at http://www.acteva.com/go/outsideworld.

Om Shanti, shanti, shanti om
(chant for peace)

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Music to our Ears

Stealthmode Partners E-Zine: Music to our Ears 14 March 2003

Namaste,

There has never been a moment when I’ve asked the tech community to come forward for a volunteer project and it hasn’t answered. In the past few months, I’ve been working with many not-for-profits who could increase their capacity through the use of technology, but who can’t afford to make the investment in the tools they need. Here in Arizona, we’re fortunate to have the Arizona Internet Professionals Association (AZIPA) announcement list, a list of twelve thousand technology professionals and the people who interact with them. I called on the AZIPA list for volunteers for this particular project, and we ended up with a national e-philanthropy campaign. More people volunteered than we could use, and we are actually beginning a second campaign for a different not-for-profits. This is how *real* communities work. How fortunate we are!

INNER CITY CHILDREN’S MUSIC PROGRAM STRIKES E-PHILANTHROPY CHORD

An inner city music academy that provides free music lessons and instruments to youth at risk has received a gift of its own: a national campaign to raise enough money to keep the program going. Rosie’s House: A Music Academy for Children (www.rosieshouse.org), has been adopted by technology professionals from Arizona to Australia, and they have provided the Academy a web site, national publicity, and a state-of-the-art music school administration program that tracks the connection between music practice and the discipline required to succeed in school and in life.

At Rosie’s House the mission is simple — to teach music and encourage students to put their best efforts into everything they do. Music teaches self-discipline, develops and reinforces good self-esteem, and fosters creative thinking. Moreover, research has shown that:
* arts education increases interest in academic learning,
* the study of music produces the development of academic achievement skills,
* learning to play a musical instrument helps students to develop faster physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially,
* and there is a correlation between music education and higher test scores in math, reading, and even the SAT.

Rosie’s House was first adopted by Vertigo Interactive Design (www.vertigointeractive.com) , one of the leading interactive design firms in Phoenix, Arizona –home to the not-for-profit music group. In real life, Vertigo Interactive Design, Inc. designs and produces customized, interactive applications to communicate and market a full range of products and ideas, including educational and promotional CD-Rom’s, highly custom internet websites, informational kiosks and museum, corporate, tradeshow and special event exhibits. As its contribution, Vertigo produced a customized, interactive website to communicate and market Rosie’s House, and to allow it to receive donations online. Sheri Farrell, co-founder of Vertigo, says “when we found out how talented some of the children are, and how meaningful music can be to their lives, we were happy to donate our services to help them raise money online.”

Music school administration and donor management software was provided at a deep discount by SSOM Software, a specialty company in Australia started by a music administrator who was inundated with the paperwork associated with running his own secondary school music program. “One of the more exhausting aspects of Music administration is the organisation of the instrumental tuition program. Some of the tasks Music Admin Pro does include scheduling the rotating timetable for the term, organising external exams, keeping track of all the details for students and teachers, student instrumental music progress reports, ensemble participation, music purchases, the Music Library and the instrument repair details.” No one ever thinks about these aspects of running a program, so it was wonderful for Rosie’s House to be able to automate these routine and essential tasks.

Rosie’s House is the creation of Woody and Rosebell Schurz, German immigrants and longtime Phoenix residents. Rosie, as she is lovingly called by the children, studied violin as a young girl in Munich until World War II swept across Europe, displacing her family to the countryside. Her music education came to a sudden halt, never to be taken up again. Rosie, not wanting poverty to dash the dreams of other children as it did her own, founded the Rosie’s House Foundation. The vision began with the purchase of a run down old house in an inner city Phoenix neighborhood.

Rosie’s House started as a safe house for the homeless and for children who needed a refuge off the streets after school. It soon developed into the music school it is today, with 350 students from the Phoenix Inner City who perform both locally and nationally.

You guessed it: Stealthmode Partners is donating the national PR.

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I have spent most of my life

I have spent most of my life saying just what I think.

However, as I have mellowed, I have tried to make the way I say things a little more constructive. In the spirit of my newfound adulthood, I share with you a letter I wrote to the developers of my new luxury high rise condo project.

Constructive feedback

Because I know you gentlemen are on to other projects like Esplanade Place, I’d like to give you some constructive feedback on your first attempt ‘ which we all agree is fabulous. There are, however, some things that could make the next one even better.

1) When you sell something, produce the thing you have sold. Many of us bought in here because we were told there would be a small enclosed grassy area in which to walk our dogs. Although my dogs are exceptionally large, all the dogs here need some fenced grass and all the buyers thought there would be some. This has been the subject of conversation at every Sunday night social. One woman (not me) even said she’d deliver her dog to Geoff’s house if there isn’t grass by next week-end. The dirt and gravel area that now exists is a) a mudhole that even a retriever wouldn’t walk on; b) not secure from traffic so an owner could let a dog off leash to do his business. We’ll gladly pay for the sod. Making us parade around the Esplanade in our exercise clothes in the middle of a business day is not customer service.

2) Erase Safeguard Security from your list of vendors. Everything they have done is wrong. They don’t know anything about networks, and can’t set up the Internet service correctly. The Internet service is much more complicated and much slower than it needs to be: T-1 lines are now going for $129/mo. And we could have put a couple of them into the building and taken care of everything. Safeguard doesn’t know anything about Direct TV, either. Their refurbished set top boxes are not as good as what other resellers offer, and mine still has someone else’s access code in it so I can’t activate my own account. I’m paying for this?
3) Strike Adams Interiors as well. Their choices are limited, their cabinets are horrendous, and their carpeting unravels before your eyes. I realize I’m in the cheap seats, but people who pay $2 million for a penthouse should not have to upgrade the cabinet knobs as I did.

4) And while we’re at it, can Wells Fargo Mortgage as well. The entire team I was dealing with departed three days before my closing. I still don’t know where to send my check.

5) Go light on the public events, especially while there are still construction people around and people stressed from moving in. Last Friday, my dog had an accident (or a passive aggressive outburst) on my new wood floor, and as I was racing him outside for corrective discipline, I ran smack into the luxury realtor tour and many of my acquaintances. They were in their Armani suits; I was in my Juicy Couture track suit. Chauncey was not brushed yet. I felt like something out of Pets on Parade. The night before, it was the ULI meeting. It’s public enough to live in an office complex without meeting your former clients in the elevator as you are carrying your favorite pillow.

6) Design bigger closets. My master closet now seems very small compared to my old house, which was the same size. Also, the air conditioning is in the intuitive spot where the hall closet/broom closet is expected. 7) The unit
across the hall from me has a back door out of a bathroom. That’s pretty funny. Ask the owners for feedback when you design the next project. 8) All that being
said, here are some notables plusses:
The staff, especially Howard and Michael, who would die for the owners. They’re fabulous. They absorb everyone’s anger and move on to solutions.
Karen Schweigert, who is unflappable and very competent.
A man from McCarthy whose name I don’t know who tightened all my cabinet knobs for me one evening without being asked.
Ben at the front desk.

Here’s to many more successful projects. With all good will and best wishes,

Francine

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