Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Virginia Senate Race Poll

Remember to show up and cast an informed vote in the Tuesday, June 13 primary.

Harris Miller

James Webb


Thank you to everyone who has voted in the poll already.

In addition to casting your vote, I would be very interested to hear your (mature) comments on why you're supporting any given candidate.

New Blog Feature - MagikWidget

I'm testing out MagikWidgets today, a new blog plug-in that generates polls and ratings, with a the promise of more widgets to come.

The Magic Widget public beta launched today. MagikWidget gets a thorough and positive review from John Unger of Typepad Hacks and Guy Kawaski has some nice things to say about MagikWidget, too.

My initial impressions are:
  • the template code is very easy to install
  • instructions on the site are clear
  • polls are very easy to set up
  • their pricing structure is reasonable
  • they've done a particularly nice job of presenting a conversational tone on their website
My only complaint is the really strong branding they've done. They've done a great job for *themselves*, but I would recommend against MagikWidget to my corporate clients, so that they don't dilute their *own* brands. I hope MagikWidget will consider something like a "premium" version in the future where users can pay a higher credit rate to remove the MagikWidget name from the link.

I'll be putting up a poll in a separate post for you to check out.

If you'd like an easy way to add polls to your blog, MagikWidget is worth checking out.

I emailed MagikWidget with a very minor and non-urgent tech support question...and I received a reply in *minutes.* I'm really impressed, folks. Keep up the great work!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Which Classic Female Literary Character Are You?

I don't expect anyone to be surprised...

Which Classic Female Literary Character Are you?

You're Elizabeth Bennett of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen!>

Go take the quiz yourself.

Via Bitch Ph.D.

Friday, May 26, 2006

holy whips of +5 healing! it's 10 Commandments mashup madness!

We are pleased to offer a double movie mashup special for your entertainment today.

#1 Ten Things I Hate About Commandments
It's Cecil B. DeMille meets the teen-formula-flick in this sassy 10 Commandments remix with special guest appearances by Samuel L. Jackson and Sinead O'Connor.

And if that wasn't enough, we also have...
#2 The low-tech mashup play-at-home edition
If you've always wanted to make your own mashups but don't have the editing tools or skills, try this easy game: just retell a movie plot backwards to get a whole new movie!
Where do we start but...The Ten Commandments
Weary of Moses' harsh commandments, the Jewish people send him back up the mountain and have an orgy before melting a golden calf down to make necklaces and plates. Fed up of living in exile they go back to Egypt where Pharoah welcomes them with open arms. They are given jobs dismantling pyramids and celebrate the miraculous prosperity of the nation - and its first-born sons - by wiping lamb's blood off their doorways.
But it's Mashup Madness Friday so keep reading, cause there's more, more, more mashup maaaaaaadness!
A large shark finds and returns a lifeguard's bullet and oxygen tank. The shark then goes on to to rebuild a boat, and give birth to several humans through his mouth. The shark, its good deeds done, returns once more to its deep blue home - the sea.

Indiana Jones Triolgy
An incompetent archaeologist travels the globe losing precious objects and information, but occasionally chasing boulders up hills and unmelting the faces of nazis. Notable feats include:
  • making his dad chunder into jesus' best cup
  • indian cult members leaping at huge velocity out of a river of crocodiles
  • a burly nazi materialising from nowhere in the midst of a plane's propellors
  • Indy jury-rigging a VTOL rubber raft with which he boards and hijacks a plane.
The Passion of the Christ
A man awakens to find himself nailed to a cross without knowing how he got there, possibly after heavy drinking. Of course he is let down shortly after and the Romans tend to his wounds with a whip of +5 healing after he helped them get the cross back to storage. They parade him in front of a crowd as thanks, before re-arresting a criminal who had been mistakenly released in the man's place, despite the consternation of the crowd. He walks away with some of his friends, one of them lies about having said he didn't know him.

He gets to the peaceful garden of Gethsemane guided by Jewish escort and one of the man's friends leaves with them after kissing him goodbye, as per the custom.

The man cries to the lord about how he doesn't want to face agony for his divine plan. The Lord say k, n prblm. The guys friends go to sleep because it's been a long fucking day
Low-tech mashup game and brilliant examples courtesy of the fine folks at the Something Awful Forums.

Here's my shot:
The Sound of Music
Austrian expat musical sensation family the Von Trapps hike over the Alps from Switzerland to frighten the Nazi's out of Austria by bellowing folk songs at the top of their lungs. Young Liesl's affections inspire a young Nazi officer to reform and become a flirtacious postman. The Von Trapp children tire of their step-mother and turn against Maria in juvenile conspiracy. The Captain and Maria disolve their marriage but keep living together, and Von Trapp courts a local socialite right under Maria's nose. Tired of Captain Von Trapp's increasingly domineering ways and the insolence of his ill-mannered brood of children, Maria seeks refuge in a nearby convent, which she flees after a series of discipline problems to run around singing in the hills like a madwoman.
So come one now, you know you're dying to give it a try. What can you come up with?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

good news I've been dying to share

The news: I have a FABULOUS new job, as Director of Social Media, for a spectacular boutique web design firm.

You're probably connecting the dots yourself...

...but the reason I didn't mention it here before was, this blog has looked like an unmade bed for so long that I really didn't want a link between this mess and the very lovely company and clients I'm working with.

So what prompted this post (and the contingent rush job site clean-up) today?

David Maister (our flagship client) mentioned me by name as one of his technical advisors in an interview about "the art of blogging" this week--so I guess the cat is out of the bag. I know some of my fellow Virginia bloggers from the law community like Steve Minor will recognize David's name, since he is the global management consultant and former Harvard Business School professor who literally wrote the book on professional service firms. As our managing partner likes to point out, we should really be paying David to work for him, because working with David is like getting paid to earn an MBA.

I finally had the opportunity to meet David and his wife Kathy earlier this month: they are both incredibly generous and charming people--and great fun! I can attest that the great strides I've been making with my health this spring are directly related to my Maister-exposure and the time I spend with my incredibly talented and passionate colleagues.

David often writes about how the shoemaker's children go without shoes. Speaking of which, our design firm is going through a redesign of our own website and blog--so that we will no longer be the shoemaker's shoeless children. (David's shown amazing restraint in not teasing us about it, too.) We should have the new splash page up soon, followed shortly by the new company blog, and finally the new website, and I will be very happy to share that good news with you, too, as it unfolds.

and now for a little housecleaning

I do eventually tire of the dog's breakfast around here. I've been talking about cleaning it up for what...about 18 months now? We'll here you go.

I seem to have lost trackbacks in the process (did anyone ever use them?) and I'll work on getting them restored shortly.

Why this uncharacteristic spurr to action, you ask? Well, I've got some good news to share, and it was just too too good to tell you on the old ugly blog.

I'll keep tweaking this template for a while to come. If you come across any glaring technical difficulties, please drop me a note and I'll try to get things ship shape quickly. And I thank you for your patience in the meantime.

From community pillars to community pillagers

Malcolm Gladwell has an excellent post today about CEO Pay then and now:
After reading the article in the New York Times yesterday on the hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation given over the past few years to the CEO of Home Depot, I ran across this: in 1949, the highest paid CEO in America was Charlie Wilson of General Motors, who earned $586,100 in salary, bonus and stock. That's roughly equivalent to what some of the better-compensated CEO's are making today.

But what did Wilson pay in taxes? $430,350.
As Gladwell concludes, times have certainly changed.

Why the title of this post? In 1949 over 80% of CEO pay went back into the community, into roads and schools and dams and bridges and from there into the local economy. Today, CEO pay goes into off-shore tax shelters, investments with slashed dividend taxes, and donations to government lobbyists and elected officials to buy big-business-friendly legislation. Does some of it go back into the local economy? Sure--through property taxes, at the pump, here and there, but nothing like the investment CEO's use to make into the infrastructure of America and the communities their employees lived and worked in. Despite Republican myths, lies and fairytales to the contrary, the truth is that the era of the corporate robber barons is back.

Feh. I'll take the 1949 version. You know, back when "fiscal responsibility" was more than a cynical Frank Luntz-tested echo chamber talking point divorced from reality.

On a related note, I was speaking with a dear friend recently who runs a small business (under 5 people) in Quebec. Someone had suggested he relocate the business, on paper, to a country with lower business taxes. His response was that he had been educated in Canada, he had benefited from Canadian health care all his life, and it was an honour to be running his own business and be able to contribute back to a system that had always taken care of him.

How many people think like that today?

(For an interesting discussion on the math at play, sources on the tax rates, etc., see the comments on the original post at Gladwell's blog. And here's a link to the original New York times article about Home Depot CEO Bob Nardelli's $123.7 million compensation.)

Monday, May 22, 2006

To speak or not to speak

A "scheduler" on a political campaign is the person who handles the candidate's public schedule, including accepting or declining invitations, giving the candidate transportation directions to the event, or assigning the event to a surrogate.

On big campaigns, such as statewide or congressional elections, scheduling is a full-time position -- in fact, on large campaigns, there may be a scheduling department. However, on downballot races, scheduling is often handled by the already busy campaign manager, or else handed off to very junior staff (interns and volunteers) who wind up in charge of running the candidate's schedule, without clear guidelines on which engagements to accept and which to decline.

Rob Cottingham, a progressive speechwriter and president of Social Signal has a great list of 7 reasons NOT to give a speech in today's Speechlist newsletter. In campaigns where the scheduler is flying blind, Rob's list forms the basis of a good set of working criteria for how to evaluate speaking invitations. With Rob's permission, I am reproducing an excerpt of his article here:
I'd love to tell you there's some foolproof algorithm to tell you whether your client's future holds a standing ovation or a pratfall. But there isn't. Here's what you can do.

Figure out - subjectively - two things.

One, cost versus benefit.

Consider the cost of accepting the invitation: your time, the speaker's time, research time, travel costs, attention distracted from other things.

Balance that against the benefit: everything from prestige to goodwill to the ability to convey a message you need to deliver – all measured against the organization's strategic communications goals.

Number two, risk versus opportunity.

What could go wrong, from embarrassment to hostility? And what do you get if everything goes right, from great media coverage to a big new sale?

Compare those two pictures. If you're travelling a huge distance to deliver a speech that will take weeks to write on a topic your client barely cares about ... to a crowd of thirty belligerent cranks at an event that the media wouldn't cover if they all spontaneously combusted... this might not be the event for you.

Here are seven reasons why you may not want your client to head to the podium.

1. The event's too low-profile

A leader's time is valuable. Staff time is valuable. If you're using it for an event that won't get you the payoff you need, that's a mistake. And the profile of the event reflects on your speaker, too; if you're doing parking lot openings, that sends a signal to others who might invite you.

2. The event's too high-profile

Sometimes you need to keep your head down, whether it's because of legal difficulties, PR problems or an impending major announcement. If your organization is following a low-ball strategy, then a leader's speech to a high-profile event may not be a great idea.

3. The wrong audience

Maybe these folks are hostile, maybe they're aching to hear something you just can't tell them, but there are some audiences you just don't want to talk to.

That said, there are times when you can actually get a lot of credit for bearding the lion in its den. You'll get grudging respect from your opponents, and props from the media for having the nerve to show up.

4. The wrong agenda

They have your speaker scheduled too late in the day to get coverage. Or right before a huge, contentious resolution debate that has them distracted. Or on a panel with someone you simply don't want to be associated with. These can all be deal-breakers if the convenor isn't willing to budge.

5. The wrong timing

I can't tell you how many invitations I've seen for hour-long speeches, or 45-minute speeches with 15-minute Q-and-A sessions. Short of some very special circumstances – say, if you're writing for Steve Jobs at the MacWorld keynote –
don't do that to your speaker. They'll have a bored, restless audience and a long, meandering speech. If you can't negotiate the time down, that's a deal-breaker.

6. The wrong messenger

You don't always have to send the CEO, senator, president or board coordinator. Sometimes an event is better suited to a staff analyst, a board member or a vice-president in charge of a specialized area.

7. A better opportunity

This is my favourite. Being able to tell a boss or client, "I don't want you taking this gig, because there's this much better one at the same time" -- that's golden.

Those are all solid reasons not to accept an invitation. But when it comes time for you to make your choice, let me make my pitch for erring on the side of yes. Speeches are a chance to connect with an audience, build a relationship, maybe move them to action -- and there's nothing like the opportunity to lead.
Rob wasn't writing this for a campaign audience specifically ,but the same principles still apply -- and this list could have saved several campaigns I've watched from wasted time and embarassment.

One other quick note on junior staff and scheduling: a candidate's schedule is too tight to waste time on bad directions. Do your candidate a favor and make sure the person assigned to this task is a local with a good knowledge of area roads, OR, someone with good navigation skills who can use modern navigation tools well and will be able to give directions over the phone to a lost candidate.

Rob's newsletter Speechlist is quite good and I recommend it to anyone who is writing or delivering speeches in the course of your work; to subscribe, just click on this link (or copy and paste it into your web browser):

Friday, May 19, 2006

Good News for the Mae West Brigade

The eternally-fabulous BitchPhd has a great discussion up about bra and swimsuit makers for girls with serious curves.

I have to the course of my corsetted life I've gone from too-small to fit, to too-large to fit, so this list is a goldmine as far as I'm concerned.

(Women's clothing trivia: did you know that almost all women's clothes, in North America at least, are built to fit a B-cup? I read that ages ago on Susie Bright's Journal.)

Here's the list, via BitchPhd and her fabulous contributors: will custom make bras in your size -- and they have the sweetest and most compassionate find your fit chart I've ever seen
-- via BitchPhd

Enell sports bras will do custom-tailored ones too
-- via BostonianGirl

Several mentions of Wacoal

Figleaves makes swimsuits sized by bra sizes
-- via BitchPhd

So does Bravissimo
-- via Freya

Curves and Lace for both swimwear and bras
-- via Danae
Now *that's* the wisdom of crowds in action.

I suppose a generation back we would all have been catalogue shoppers. It is at times like this that I really appreciate the Internet.

Viva the Long Tail!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

What's Stephen Colbert really like?

Yes, that Stephen Colbert.

It turns out that Fact-esque (who else?) was in the audience for a live taping of the Colbert Report today(!)...and details the full Colbert experience with typical Fact-esque aplomb.

(I know that my fellow Virginia bloggers Melissa and Kristen Monstrosity will be green with envy. Yo, Ditzy Democrats! -- Go check it out!)

Plus, today's Colbert Report is already online. (The word of the day is...Innoculation.)

Palimpsests for everyone!

"Palimpsest" is's word of the day for today:

palimpsest \PAL-imp-sest\, noun:
1. A manuscript, usually of papyrus or parchment, on which more than one text has been written with the earlier writing incompletely erased and still visible.
2. An object or place whose older layers or aspects are apparent beneath its surface.

The manuscript is a palimpsest consisting of vellum leaves from which the "fluent and assured script" of the original Archimedes text and 55 diagrams had been washed or scraped off so that the surface could be used for new writings.
-- Roger Highfield, "Eureka! Archimedes text is to be sold at auction", Daily Telegraph, October 3, 1998

Each is a palimpsest, one improvisation partly burying another but leaving hints of it behind.
-- Robert Hughes, "Delight for Its Own Sake", Time, January 22, 1996

It's a mysterious many-layered palimpsest of a metropolis where generations of natives and visitors have left their mark, from Boadicea and the Romans, through the Middle Ages and the Elizabethan era to the present.
-- Philip French, "Jack the knife", The Observer, February 10, 2002

What a great word to describe a blog, if you think about it.

If I hadn't already picked an obscure Japanese literary in-joke to name my blog, I would definitely name my blog "Palimpsest Central." Definitely.

Whitehouse Debuts New Political Outreach Tool

The "highly branded" message system is alleged to have been designed by the president himself.
New Bush Mail System
Note that every message is customized with a picture of the President.

Conspiracy theorists are going bananas about this one.

Frappr on Smack

I kid you not. Check out XPlanet, the new promo for the X-men movie.

I have total and utter blog envy.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Scenes from a Geek Marriage

I have been thinking that I ought to start a series of posts entitled "Scenes from a Geek Marriage," for the benefit of those of you who don't have the pleasure of being married to a geek. Because if you're not, I don't think you could ever imagine what our house is like.

Last night, we were in bed talking about data analysis--our pillow talk often sounds like a chat between Joel Spolsky and Suw Charman on a hot date. Through a long series of unforseen events, I have wound up in charge of the data analysis for a client on the results of some focus group tests, for which my husband is providing extensive technical expertise and support (as usual). And, doing this project on somewhat short notice, and without the tools we'd like to have, we've been proceeding in MS Access for the sake of finances and expediency.

(Don't worry, we're aware of the R Project for Statistical Computing, and we are planning on learning R before the next round of surveys takes place.)

So we were discussing the fact that the focus group participants were each shown 2 videos chosen at random from a larger batch, and that it is a bit of a pain to make "video A then video B" show up as the *same* combination as "video B then video A." At which point, my husband bursts out,
"It's just binary math! It's like subnet masks!

"Look...we've got the first videos in column 1 and the second videos in column 2. We assign number values for each of the videos, so Video A = 1 and Video B = 2, etc. Then, we make column three equal to 2 to the power of the number in column 1, plus, 2 to the power of the number in column 2, and then we'll have one value for the video combinations, no matter what the order is."
(Note that his wording was more elegant--I was half asleep at the time.)

1. Can anyone wonder why I'm madly in love with this man?

2. If you married your own geek you could have bedtime conversations like this, too.