September 2008 Archives

free sarah palin!

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upcoming travel

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Fall is always a hectic time of year for me, with annual conference obligations on top of the school year beginning. I keep my schedule up to date in Dopplr, but for those of you wondering where I'll be over the next few weeks, here's the short version...

I'll be in NYC on Friday and Saturday, to give a talk at the New York Public Library. (It's for their staff, not for the public.) Gerald's coming with me, and we're planning to go to the Little Feat concert Friday night in Manhattan. We've got Saturday pretty much free, so drop me a line if you want to get together.

Next month I've got two west coast commitments--the social computing symposium at Microsoft Research, and the Internet Librarian Conference in Monterey. Those are two of my most favorite events! Normally they're not back to back, but this year they are, so instead of doing two cross-country round trips (not fun with air travel the way it is these days), I'm going to spend a few days in the bay area between the two events. So it looks like Seattle (Redmond) 10/11-15, Berkeley or Palo Alto 10/16-19, and Monterey 10/19-21. Then a redeye home on Wednesday night (ugh!) so I can teach on Thursday.

shangri-la update

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I haven't been updating my separate "shangri-la chronicles" mini-blog, but I have been sticking with the basic plan. And much to my amazement, I've been steadily dropping a pound a week. I'm still eating all the foods I enjoy, from french fries at lunch to ice cream in the evening, but there's no question that my appetite has been reduced. I feel full much faster, I get hungry less frequently, I'm not craving carbs as often as I used to.

The weight loss is not at all related to increased exercise, either, because my plans to get back into the gym regularly have been sidelined by knee pain. My doctor says the pain is from patellar tendonitis, something I had back in high school as well. It will get better with stretching exercises and rest, but for now it has curtailed even my dog walking.

I'm pretty delighted by the results of this very simple daily habit (one tbsp of extra-light olive oil every afternoon), and plan on keeping it up for the foreseeable future. (I'm considering switching to Smart Balance oil when my current bottle runs out, since it has more of the beneficial omega acids in it.)

wanted: plain english version of the bank crisis

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I'm a reasonably well-read, well-informed, well-educated person. And yet, even after reading through multiple news stories this morning about the events taking place on Wall Street, I still have no idea how this actually affects me and people like me (other than the fear that the federal government will throw even more tax dollars at these banks).

Is there a place that I can go to get the "financial crisis for dummies" version of what's going?

are you an omnivore?

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Via my friend Simon comes this list of 100 foods...how many have you eaten? Those I've tried are in bold, those I'm not willing to try are crossed-out.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake (all of them, actually)
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

christopher moore on who he's voting for

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Inspiration IS LEADERSHIP. Rallying people to help their fellow citizens so they might improve their lives and the lives of the less fortunate, IS LEADERSHIP. Having the intelligence and imagination to foresee trouble and avoid, or defuse it, those are qualities above those of experience that doesn’t inform good judgment.

What I find baffling, is that the very same people who decry inspiration and oratory and not being of value, who scoff at someone who was a “community organizer”, are people of the Christian faith. Faith IS an act of imagination! If you can’t imagine a world where God cares and sent his son to die for your sins, you really can’t be faithful, can you? There is, I think, I hope, in every single person of faith, the potential for imagination beyond that of fear. An ability to imagine that which is better. If you can’t imagine it, you’ll never get there, and if you’re not inspired, you can’t imagine it.

I know the value of imagination, judgement, and intelligence.
I’m voting for the smartest guy running.

Bravo! (Full essay here.)

(Hat tip: Kevin Schofield)

things that make me go "yay!"

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Despite the negative purchasing experience, we love, love, love our Scion xB. Gerald keeps coming up with excuses to run errands in it because it's so much fun to drive. The sound system rocks, we love the XM radio, and it handles really nicely. Fuel economy isn't fabulous, but it's much better than the Tribeca. Currently we're getting 26.5mpg average with almost all city driving. The Tribeca was around 19mpg. Yay Scion!

The one aggravating thing is that many stereo and navigation controls are disabled when the car is moving. I understand the safety reasons for this, but since so often there's somebody in the passenger seat, it would be nice to be able to override. Happily, I found step by step directions on how to do exactly that on one of the Scion xB forums. Yay internet forums! Yay Google!

We also bought a new mattress last month. After experiencing sticker shock at the local mattress stores (do you know how hard it is to find a halfway decent king-sized mattress for under $1500?), and discovering that I really liked the memory foam mattresses (which run $2500 and up), we ended up taking a look at overstock.com. Much to my amazement, they sell a 14" pillowtop king-size memory foam mattress for under $700. (With the discount on mattresses that day, and coupon, our total cost for the mattress, including shipping, was $650.) So we took a chance and bought one. The verdict? We love it. It's comfortable for both of us, and I particularly love the lack of motion transfer when either of us gets in or out of bed. I'm sleeping better, and waking with fewer aches and pains. Yay Overstock! Yay online shopping!

And finally, we had a meeting today for the faculty and staff associated with the lab for social computing and it was great. So much positive energy, so many good ideas, so much potential for us to kick ass this year. Yay RIT Lab for Social Computing! Yay colleagues!

richard dorschel responds

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Last week I sent a letter to the owner of Dorschel Scion, Richard J. Dorschel. I enclosed a printout of my original blog entry, as well as printouts of the Google searches that showed my entry coming up in the top ten for "dorschel difference" and "dorschel scion" and in the top twenty for "dorschel." (They've returned to the index after that brief and odd disappearance, and in fact my post is now in the top ten for "dorschel" as well.)

I received a letter in reply this week. It starts out well, with an apology for the missteps made and frustration we encountered. It goes on to explain why it's so difficult to track the location of cars, as well explaining how the miscommunication about the options occurred. So far, so good. But the ending left a bit to be desired:

My company has a reputation for good service--which I can confirm with our strong Customer Satisfaction Scores and high levels of customer retention. However, we are far from perfect ad I personally am involved in most of our missteps. The language you use to describe my company and my employees suggests you came with a significant degree of mistrust and misconception of a dealer.

In conclusion, I am a long time advocate, financial supporter, and friend of my neighbor, RIT. I can't tell you how much it stings and disappoints me to have a ranking member of the faculty publicly attack my company in language I feel diminishes the image of my company and RIT [emphasis added]. Elizabeth, you again have my apologies for our many miscues. I wish you the best of luck with your Scion and hope the remainder of your owndership experience far exceeds the start.

Sincerely,
R.J. Dorschel
President

This got me thinking about why some apologies work wonders in changing opinions, and others (like this one) fall flat. I did a quick search on "art of the apology" and found, much to my amusement, that a post I wrote three years ago is one of the first hits for that phrase.

I found some other great pieces in that search, however. There's a piece from Oprah's website that includes this passage:

3. Genuine expression of remorse. Anyone who has been on the receiving end of the comment "I'm sorry you feel that way" knows the difference between sincere regret and an attempt to avoid responsibility for bad behavior. Few things are less likely to evoke forgiveness than apology without remorse.

I was also reminded of situation we'd encountered with our local elementary school when Lane had a very bad experience with a teacher. I contacted our principal by email to let him know how unhappy we were, and then made an appointment to see him. I walked in, furious, ready to fight, and--if necessary--remove Lane from the school.

The first words out of the principal's mouth were "What's the best thing we can do for Lane right now?" That took every ounce of anger out of me. When I said that moving him to a different class was the best option he said "I agree. I've already laid the groundwork for that, and we'll make it happen tomorrow." He didn't lay blame, he didn't point fingers, he didn't try to make me feel bad for being upset. He focused everything on how to improve the situation, and I left feeling 1000% better than when I'd walked in. (That principal, Mark Turner, retired this past year, and he'll be sorely missed. He was a treasure.)

What Mr. Dorschel didn't seem to recognize was that my anger was not primarily about the lateness of the car. As I said in my post, I recognize that they don't have control over that. My frustration was with the manager who promised Gerald that he would be our only point of contact moving forward but then didn't follow up on that promise (the original salesman called us two days later to confirm what options we'd ordered), with the salesman who told me that I must be confused when I confronted him with the inaccurate information he'd given us, and the attempt to pass the buck on responsibility away from the salesman who'd sat with us and taken the order to the salesman we knew personally who'd assisted on the deal. I'll add to that list Mr. Dorschel's claim that my post somehow diminishes RIT's reputation. (Huh?!)

In fact, Mr. Dorschel is wrong about my preconceptions. We'd had excellent experiences in the past with John Holtz Honda, and went into the process of purchasing this car with high expectations, not low ones. And I'm not tarring all car dealerships with the same brush here. This was an experience specific to one dealership, but it was a pattern of behavior--in the salesman, the manager, and now the owner--that consistently showed a desire to combine an apology with a deflection of blame, and implications that I was at fault. That never works well.

The sad thing about all of this is that a well-crafted apology probably would have caused me to go back and update the original post with more positive information, thus greatly reducing the overall damage to the company's "googlejuice". What would that apology have included?

1) A genuine expression of remorse. [that was there, in the first paragraph]

2) An explanation of what had happened (which I wish had been given to us a lot earlier, as it would have reduced our sense of frustration and helplessness). [that was there as well]

3) A complete lack of blame-passing. [nope]

4) Accurate information about what had transpired with his staff [nope]

5) A gesture to make amends [nope]

He got two out of five, which was a start, but pretty much negated those by claiming that I was somehow damaging RIT's image by publicly expressing my unhappiness. FAIL.

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Update, 9/8: For the sake of completeness and context, for anyone who really cares, here are my original letter to Richard Dorschel, and Dorschel's full response.

nobody does it better...

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Today I donated another $25 to the Obama campaign. If you're as appalled as I am by the meanspirited partisanship on display last night, and as frightened as I am by the idea of the most conservative ticket since Goldwater winning the presidency, you should, too.

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