Monthly Archives: November 2007

Is Our Press as Free as Pakistan’s?

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Time Warp

In 1971, at the end of the turbulent 60’s, I suddenly found myself a
member of the elite Phoenix Country Club, a low ranch building with a
great golf course right in the middle of downtown Phoenix, Arizona.

Make
no mistake; I didn’t choose to join. The membership came with my
marriage to John Hardaway. John was an avid tennis player, and when we
got married and I got pregnant I was in no mood for country club life.
I was a college professor and a film reviewer. I was an activist and an
intellectual.

But the Club had an Olympic-size pool, and I had a need to
exercise my pregnant body, so I swallowed my distaste for the Club’s
morals and values (it had no women members except widows and wives, one
black member, and you could count the Jews on the fingers of one hand),
and on the advice of my new husband, began working out at the Club.

Fast forward six or seven years, two children, and one woman’s
movement later, I was down at the Club one Saturday afternoon, and had
just taken a shower with my daughters in the Ladies’ Locker Room
(prohibited, because they were under age). I was ready to go home, but
I had to find John.

John had also taken a shower, and was seated in the Men’s
Grill, adjacent to the Men’s Locker Room. I couldn’t get his attention,
so I crossed the threshhold and walked to the table at which he sat. I
said, "we’re ready." Quite an inflammatory remark.

Who knew that the sky would fall? The men freaked out, as if
something terrible had happened. The waitress (yes, there were
waitresses) asked my politely to leave. Something told me to stay, and
I began asking questions. What’s wrong with coming in here to find my
husband?  Why do we have waitresses if we don’t allow women?
Sylvester, the black locker room attendant, rolled his eyes (I am not
making this up).

Fast forward to the divorce, which occurred soon after I
started my business. Many men at "The Club" became my clients, because
they knew me.  That’s how it’s done at "The Club.’ Especially if you
are a man, you don’t have to be smart or good at what you do.  They
only have to know you.

In a divorce, under the Club’s bylaws, the woman loses her
membership. Since by this time I was in business and actually "needed"
the Club, I wanted the membership more than John Hardaway did.  He
tried to give it to me. The Club Board said no.

Another fast forward, as a good friend and client of mine, a
member of the Club Board, tried to put me up for membership again.  By
this time, I’m successful, everyone knows it, and we’re in the mid-80s.
Other women have been put up and allowed to join on their own.

But not me.  My friend and mentor is told that because I did
things like shower my kids in the Ladies Locker Room in defiance of the
rules, and cross the threshhold of the Men’s Grill, I am dangerous.
Many women in the Club don’t want me there. The men are afraid to
blackball me, because they think I will sue the Club. My mentor and I
have a discussion, and after I cry a lot, I agree to withdraw my
application.

Last fast forward. The present. There is still a Men’s Grill,
and I get a call from a woman I have known for thirty-five years saying
she is finally going to challenge the existence of a Men’s Grill. There
are many issues. It’s a private club. It’s a County island in the
middle of the City. The men have ways of silencing their activist
womenfolk.

When they call me, I volunteer to help. My business career has
been affected in a weird way by the Men’s Grill. The intimate business
relationships men have with each other at "The Club" are now
permanently lost to me. I have lost something that cannot be
quantified, and I am not alone.

I have two daughters who are very successful and choose not to
live in Phoenix. They grew up at "The Club" and left for better
opportunities.  To them it is a quirky place where they stole the mints
when they were kids. To me, it was a defining moment.

For the sake of the future of all women, could we please finally get rid of the Men’s Grill???????

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An Attitude of Gratitude

This was my Thanksgiving Day in Half Moon Bay this year. The dog is Chelsea’s Kodie, and the scene is the trail at Poplar Beach. Such a perfect day. Who could not be thankful to live in a place like this with such a loving family?

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Essential Event Technologies Rocks

The video from the Second Annual Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference is up here.On this Thanksgiving Eve, I’d like to give a big shout out to Chance Carpenter from Essential Event Technologies , who donated the videography and technology to capture the presentations. I am grateful to all our community friends and partners who made our event such a success and made possible another training program for disadvantaged people who would like to be entrepreneurs.

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Are Books Dead?

This week, Amazon released the Kindle, a new eBook reader, to a storm of conflicting opinions in the blogosphere. Me, I usually order everything new under the technological sun, but I didn’t race off to buy a Kindle.  I thought I’d wait this one out.

Was this because of my age, or my fondness for the physical substance of a “real, old-fashioned book”?  I think not. Rather, it was because I discovered something recently about my own “reading” habits that may have made a Kindle redundant.

Three weeks ago, I was sitting on an airplane, listening to my downloaded “Radiohead” album on my laptop. My noise-canceling headphones were out of battery life, so I was stuck with the earbuds from my iPhone, but it was not all that bad.

This was, however, a milestone.  I was on a 4.5-hour flight from Phoenix to Boston and for the first time in my life I had not brought a book on board an airplane.  I have so shifted my habits that I will be listening to what’s on my laptop and writing until the laptop runs out of battery and then I will switch to listening to what’s on my iPhone.  If I get stuck, I will listen to what is being broadcast on the in-flight system or watch the in-flight movie, “Hairspray” for the second time.

Unless you are part of my immediate family, you can never understand the significance of this. I got a Ph.D in English. I majored in modern literature. I had a library that numbered in the thousands, which I dutifully carted from New York to Arizona.

And although in the (first) divorce I left the books with the father of our children, we were on good terms, and if I needed a fix, I could visit the books any time, or borrow them. I never did.

Once the Internet began to make books available online, I realized I would never need them in a library again.  But for a while I still bought them anyway, read them and put them on a shelf.

I don’t do that anymore. I buy books and give them away after I finish them, or leave them on the plane, bus, train, or boat. I notice I’m not alone; there’s a big “Read and Return” program at most airport bookstores. I don’t read printed material at home at all, unless it’s a magazine that comes to me unsolicited (New York magazine did that for six months) or an RSS feed.  The Carnegie Endowment has just issued a report that probably puts me in a class with teen-age boys. They don’t read either. Traditional educators are panicked about this.

Preparing for this trip to California, I didn’t even go so far as to buy a book. There are enough podcasts, Scoble shows, and feeds on my laptop to keep me busy. The only time I might really need a “book” is on takeoff and landing.

The most important lesson for me is that I have shifted from taking in information on paper to taking it in online.   And a lot of it is auditory or as video, an entirely different mode of learning, which I obviously find quite convenient and useful, although it was never offered to me in school. Perhaps I would have liked to listen to all the books I read over the years. Or watch them as movies. I never got the chance until now.

Today’s children are really fortunate. They can learn in so many different modalities, and I think they naturally gravitate to the ones with which they are most comfortable. Maybe when they put those earbuds in, we should not try to discourage them.  Maybe we shouldn’t make them feel bad if they don’t want to “read” a book.

Thoughts?  I know this is controversial. But if my foster kids had been given a chance to be auditory or visual learners, rather than book learners, I think they would be educated to a higher level by now.  They remember everything I have ever told them, and very little that they learned in school. They also remember every detail of the movies and TV shows they’ve seen.

I’m coming to the conclusion that not reading is different from not learning. The Kindle will have to wait.

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Jumpbox Founder Does Me a Favor


  the house has awesome style 
  Originally uploaded by legaltech

Sean Tierney, one of the entrepreneurs who stayed in my Half Moon Bay house recently, while he was making his appearance on The Scoble Show, took this picture of it that really captures its character. Of course I am not able to take such good pictures, but if you want to know why I love my house up there and why I am escaping tomorrow to HMB for the holidays, here’s the answer!

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Google: No Need to Shlep Your Laptop

Yesterday I got a quick look at where Google is going with its mobile programs. I had lunch with an anonymous iPhone owner who already had the next generation of Google Apps installed on his iPhone. As he punched the bottom button, all the apps opened one after the other,without being individually called up from the web. All the information was there. In other words, once you opened one of your Google Apps (and I saw Gmail, Reader, Calendar, Doc, and Notebook), they were all immediately available. Right now, I have Google Reader and Calendar separately bookmarked, and Gmail (IMAP) as my primary email. Quite a bit of waiting involved, at least over EDGE.

I asked when this improvement would launch, and was told "when it’s ready." And I said, "it looks ready." My companion said "almost."

My impression was that when this next generation of mobile apps was released, not only would the accesibility be better, but the interface would be even simpler than it is now. It looked as thought I would be very close to having the productivity power than used to be on the desktop on my iPhone.

So then how does Google monetize this?  Will I be looking at ads on my iPhone bookmarks? Or will Android somehow solve this?

At times like these I wish I had a little more technical expertise so I could make a better prediction about what the final mosaic is going to look like.  When I heard Google VP Doug Merrill speak a couple of weeks ago, he said Google’s objective is to make all the world’s information available and accessible.  Available is probably the search piece of the objective, and accessible probably falls under the mobile piece.

But the funny part is, I don’t think Google itself knows what the mosaic will look like, because they open source everything they develop, and they can have no idea what other people will do with it.  Example:  Google Maps.

Very fascinating. And the answer I got to "what does Open Social really mean?" "Anything the users want it to mean."

What a fun company. Does it operate according to chaos theory, with its own internal pattern that we customers don’t have to understand?

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Starbucks has Jumped the Shark

I have a terrible Starbucks habit.  It’s so intense that I have figured out the calorie counts for the "cheapest" (in terms of calories) Frappacino that I can still enjoy, and carefully calculated those calories into my daily fuel economy.

[It’s the grande, sugar-free caramel coffee Frappacino, no whipped cream.]

Little things, like when they got sugar free syrups, are big events in my life. For example, life got better when I could switch from sugar-free hazelnut to caramel. Not that I hated hazelnut, but I have always coveted caramel, but was unwilling to spend the calories before it became sugar-free.

Spend is the operative word. Recently, Starbucks once again raised its prices. It does that every once in a while, but this time it drove my daily drink to over $4.00, depending on where I order it ( at airports, it has been over $4.00 for a while, because I’m a trapped customer there).

Four times 30 is one twenty, says my grade school math.  I am spending $120 per month, $1440 a year, on Starbucks. On sugar and caffeine. Maybe more, because every once in a while when I go in there I also buy a bottle of $2.00 water.

That’s enough to Christmas shop for my ten (step)grandchildren and my three foster kids.

Starbucks foot traffic is down and their shares are declining.  No wonder! If the middle class is declining, can Starbucks be far behind?

Update: My friend Howard Lindzon has just called the stock a "biiitch," and a "piiiig." So I guess I am not so wrong.

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Google Ads, Facebook Ads, or No Ads

This morning, because I’ve been reading feeds about the triumphs of Open Social, and Facebook ads, and the migration of all advertising revenue in the future to social networks, I’ve also been thinking about myself, the user, and whether those ads really work. I know I will be in the minority here, but I’m going to say that these ads will be no more effective than previous methods of advertising.

Although this will expose me to criticism, I’m going to use the data point of myself as an example. I have been using Gmail since it debuted, and it gradually became my only email client. And yet I cannot tell you one ad I have seen on all the emails that have been served to me.  My friend Michael Markman once sent around a funny email about the kinds of ads he received alongside his emails — grotesquely inappropriate. Even after his email reminded me that there actually WERE ads on my email pages, I never saw them.

This morning I decided to take a look. Next to an email asking for advice on how to transport a car across country (a post from a mailing list I am on) came a bunch of ads for cars and car transport. Why would I ever look at them, since I am not the person transporting the car, nor even someone who could answer the question posed by the list member. Next to an email from a friend trying to set up drinks, an ad for Ron Paul and Phillies for President. Even funnier, next to an email announcing that I had another Twitter follower, an ad for SpyDiagnostics.com. I guess Google ads thinks all my Twitter followers can be stalkers.

Advertisers are paying for this? I hope they chose the cheap keywords.

Then I took a deeper dive into my own behavior and realized that I’m not as oblvious as I thought. I actually haven’t been seeing the ads at all  — rather than merely ignoring them. My browser is set to full screen, and the ads are off to the right.  So is Twitterific, with its eye-catching stream of Tweets from friends, and GoogleChat, with the occasional interruption from yet another friend. Those effectively would obscure the ads even if I made my browser window smaller.

Facebook ads, on the other hand (bad pun) are on the left. By and large, they are prettier. The last one I got was for an LG mobile phone, which I noticed because I thought at first it was an iPhone ad. Most of the time, since I am outside Facebook’s major demographic, I don’t get any ads.

More important than the shortcomings of the ads or the algorithms that serve them is the fact that I have to be trained to "see" Facebook ads and Google ads. Because they are relatively new, my mind and my eye must be trained the way they were trained to see magazine ads or TV commercials. The "creative" will have to get better.  It’s not all the alogrithm, stupid.

For example, until recently I was a subscriber to Vogue magazine. Like, I mean, I have been a subscriber since high school.  That was a serious preference. Same deal with The New Yorker. I used to flip through the pages of content  in both of them just to see the ads, because I assumed if it was in The New Yorker it was a quality product, and if it was in Vogue it was fashionable. I drew my tastes from them.

I now read both of those online. But I no longer see the ads.

This insight of mine must have some meaning for advertisers, at least until the Baby Boomers, GenX and GenY die off, because all of us were trained on TV, radio, and print ads, and trained to see the online world as either learning or fun and games. Or, best case scenario for the advertiser, as a repository of catalogues: J.Crew, Amazon, EBay, Buy.com.

For now I can only conclude that the brave new world of online advertising won’t be much different from the old world of advertising — ROI will be difficult to compute, and half the money will be wasted. Which half is still to be determined.

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