The Speech Of My Life

When it was over I received a standing ovation. A few people were crying.

Tonight was the annual post-walk dinner for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. It was held at the Woodbridge Country Club.

Because of our newscasts and especially because of the upcoming storm I showed up while the event was already underway. I watched as group after group was cited for raising money for diabetes research. I was asked to say a few words at the end.

I have spoken hundreds of times to organizations. It comes easily to me. I had nothing prepared and was planning on speaking for no more than a minute or two.

I began and immediately sensed the audience was very attentive. For a speaker that’s the juice.

I have no explanation why, but I gave the speech of my life!

That’s not melodramatic hyperbole. This presentation was light years beyond anything I’d done before.

Even while presenting I could feel the pieces come together. Juvenile diabetes is, after all these years, something I know about. More importantly, I know what the parents and families are going through.

My little ad lib found its groove with a logical beginning, middle and end. It built as it moved toward its conclusion. When it was over I received a standing ovation. A few people were crying.

I was touched by the response. It affected me deeply.

I didn’t expect to make this kind of impact. I didn’t set out with that intention. I’ve never spoken like this before. Who knows if I ever will again?

It was a passionate rallying cry for a cause that’s important made to an audience that’s desperate for results. For some, I suspect, I renewed their hope for a cure.

You know that stuff about giving being better than receiving? It’s true.

The iPhone After A Week

If I had a dollar for every time I thought I hit the “m” key but backspaced instead I’d be a wealthy guy.

Thumbnail image for apple-iphone-3g.jpgI’ve had my iPhone over a week now. I suppose an update is in order.

There have been two very distinct responses I’ve gotten from people who’ve found out about the phone.

  • Welcome to the dark side
  • What about the keyboard?

Dark siders: This doesn’t mean I’ll eschew the PC world for Apple. Sorry.

Keyboarders: It’s a bitch! There’s no doubt this keyboard is very difficult to use. I make many more mistakes than I did with the BlackBerry keyboard, itself on the small side but at least with tactile response (you know, the keys pushed down).

If I had a dollar for every time I thought I hit the “m” key but backspaced instead I’d be a wealthy guy.

The one saving grace is Apple’s incredibly useful self correction feature. A few commenters told me to just type away and let the iPhone fix things on its own.

I do. It does.

It’s still not enough.

Using the keyboard in landscape mode is better than portrait mode–but it’s not always available. This is the most anti-intuitive part of the phone. I don’t quite understand why this happens, but it does. Frustrating.

The world famous iPhone apps are pretty amazing. I think I’ve spent around $5 so far for dozens of cool and fun tools. Some are worthwhile. Others will be removed the next time I sync the phone with iTunes.

I bought a UPC scanner app (please, don’t ask why) which automatically tells you what its read and then prices it out on the Internet! I also have a few games and audio services. Yes, I can now provide my own rim shots for one liners!

One program which lets you hold your arm outstretched and shows you which stars you’re seeing is amazing. It shows the incredible value of the compass, which Apple seems to market more as a gadget. No–the compass is much more of an enabling device than I would have ever thought.

Last night after the Phillies won I used the iPhone to play KYW radio. I’ve also used it in the car to listen to some NPR shows.

The phone call volume is TOO LOW!!! It’s too low from the phone and from my bluetooth earpiece. There is a solution published online for more volume but it includes poking tiny holes in the speaker enclosures. Sorry–I need it in software.

Surprisingly it’s too difficult to make calls directly from the home screen. Yes, there’s voice control, but it doesn’t always work correctly. My Motorola RAZR and the BlackBerry are superior in this regard.

As if by magic, one week after I bought the iPhone Verizon began to advertise what many are calling the iPhone killer. What were they waiting for? Couldn’t they have run it as I was driving home from the store?

Bottom line–I’m mainly pleased with the phone though more because of its computer attributes than its phone attributes. I’ve gone on EBay and ordered a bunch of little accessories.

The iPhone stays.

Facebook’s Security–Unacceptable

This would be like the fire department refusing to take your call because you only saw a house on fire–but it wasn’t your house!

I logged onto Facebook today to find two friends with hacked accounts. Each had sent an email to a long list of friends. The email contained a single URL. Of course the URL didn’t come from my friends and the purpose of sending it was nefarious. This has happened before… it has happened many times before.

facebook-phish.pngThere were telltale signs. The destination URL led to what looked like Facebook’s login page though it had a Russian URL. The text was obviously written by a non-native English speaker confused about when to use helps versus help. Not every phishing attempt is so easily spotted.

There will always be bad operators. However, I find Facebook’s response to this type of problem inadequate to the point of being irresponsible. If you as a user spend the time to get to the help page that covers this situation Facebook says:

“It is possible that malicious software was downloaded to your friend’s computer or that their login information was phished in an attempt to send spam from their profile. We would like to investigate this issue further, but unfortunately, we cannot release information regarding a user’s account to anyone but the account holder. Please tell your friend to visit the Facebook Help Center and contact us.”

This would be like the fire department refusing to take your call because you only saw a house on fire–but it wasn’t your house!

So, on this beautiful holiday afternoon when Facebook users are unlikely to be online the problem will fester. Other innocents won’t notice it’s a scam and give up their user info too. The problem will spread.

Facebook has an obligation to take a more active role. This is not some after school project, but a business now valued in the billions!

The Graduation

This past weekend is a blur! Even while it was in progress it was tough to see where Saturday ended and Sunday began.

Stef has graduated college. We all attended yesterday in what was a whirlwind weekend!

Helaine didn’t walk at her graduation and though I finished the meteorology program at Mississippi State that didn’t qualify me to walk. This was my first.

We headed to Long Island and got there in time to see some of Stef’s friends and take a few pictures. Stefanie lived in the dorm for four years, but we met at a small house. It was really more of a “housette” on a nondescript street in Hempstead.

One of the girls told me how much she (and by she I suppose she meant her parents) are paying for monthly rent. I did some quick in-my-head multiplication and figured the house goes for around $4200 a month. Seriously? For that it should come with maid service… which it obviously did not. Obviously.

The day was gray and chilly and we walked the few blocks to the school’s football stadium. My parents, both in their 80s but looking and acting much younger, hoofed it without trouble. Yes, that’s very good news.

The parents and guests filled two thirds of the stands while the grads–reported as about 2,000 by Newsday–sat on folding chairs set up on the field. There was rain, but not much. There were three commencement speakers and, as Helaine noted, no valedictory speaker. I wonder why?

First up was Senator Charles Schumer of New York. Here’s what I took away. The most important part of college is Chuck Schumer.

Next was Nichols Negraponte of MIT’s Media Lab and the One Laptop Per Child project. I have been a fan of his for years but his speech was anything but inspiring. This was the definitive speech when people talk about graduation speeches they don’t remember!

The third speaker was Bob Schieffer of CBS News. He is connected to the school by virtue of his moderating the presidential debate at Hofstra last fall. Scheiffer was charming. He just seemed like a nice guy&#185. I’m not sure there was anything earth shattering said, but I wasn’t disappointed.

All three speakers acknowledged how difficult it would be getting a job in this horrendous economy. No one wanted to hear it, but it’s certainly the 500 pound gorilla in every grad’s life.

By the time we got back to Stef’s dorm room we were down to two hours to vacate! No problem. We’d taken some stuff last weekend and were prepared. With plenty of time to spare her possesions were packed into the back our Helaine and Stef’s cars.

We were back in Connecticut around midnight. I was exhausted and not alone in that regard. Helaine, Stef and my folks were soon in bed and asleep. I followed a few hours later.

This past weekend is a blur! Even while it was in progress it was tough to see where Saturday ended and Sunday began. I woke up this morning thinking it was Sunday.

Stef has graduated. It’s a hell of an accomplishment. We are very proud.

&#185 – Someone I work with was an intern for Scheiffer in Washington and confirms he is a very nice man.

Sully Was The Right Guy To Fly

This is the guy you want flying your plane.

sully.jpgI have been doing a little searching for info on “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot in today’s US Airways Hudson River splashdown. This is the guy you want flying your plane.

From, Sullengerger’s website:

Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger, III is a captain for a major U.S. airline with over 40 years of flying experience.

A former U.S. Air Force (USAF) fighter pilot, he has served as an instructor and Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) safety chairman, accident investigator and national technical committee member. He has participated in several USAF and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) accident investigations. His ALPA safety work led to the development of a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Advisory Circular.

Working with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientists, he coauthored a paper on error inducing contexts in aviation. He was instrumental in the development and implementation of the Crew Resource Management (CRM) course used at his airline and has taught the course to hundreds of his colleagues.

Sully is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy (B.S.), Purdue University (M.S.) and the University of Northern Colorado (M.A.). He was a speaker on two panels at the High Reliability Organizations (HRO) 2007 International Conference in Deauville, France May 29-31, 2007. He has just been named a Visiting Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley.

Long Trip To The Movies

What’s left of Ernesto left Connecticut early. Sunday turned out sunny and pleasant. We decided to go to the movies.

Actually, we attempted a twofer. My car had gotten new tires and fresh oil and was sitting in front of the tire place in Cheshire. We headed to the movie theater in Southington.

Good idea! We’d save time and miles. Of course I forgot to bring the keys for my car. I’ll say it – what an idiot.

Today’s movie was “Little Miss Sunshine” with Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Alan Arkin and Steve Carrell. At the moment, there is a law somewhere which says Greg Kinnear must be in every movie made.

The story centers around the Hoover family of Albuquerque. They are dysfunctional in just about every possible way.

The dad is a failing motivational speaker. The grandfather snorts drugs in the bathroom. The son hasn’t spoken for months. The brother-in-law is a gay professor specializing in Proust who has just failed at suicide.

This is a comedy based on interaction between family members. Each one is more screwed up than the next, except the nine year old daughter, Olive (Abigail Breslin).

I’ve read, more than once, this is her movie. I wouldn’t go that far, but she certainly holds her own with major league acting talent. And, hers is the pivotal role around which the action revolves and the family unites.

Stop! That last sentence might lead you to believe this is a feel good movie. No way – this is a very dark comedy… very dark.

I laughed out loud a few times, but I left the theater unsatisfied. I’m not sure yet, but it could have been the same reason I was unnerved by “Postcards From The Edge.” When dysfunctional life is too close to reality, I have trouble laughing at it.

Helaine on the other hand thought the movie was great.

Maybe, today especially, her opinion should be valued higher. After all, it was because of me, we had to drive all the way home to pick up the keys before retrieving my car.

A Smidge Of Winter

Most people here in Connecticut will gladly tell you, this winter hasn’t been too bad. Sure there have been cold spells, but our snow storms haven’t been as bad as recent winters.

In fact, yesterday was a perfect example of an ‘almost storm.’ Much of the state saw snow turn to rain. The farther north you were, the slower that turnover and the more snow you got.

Here at the Casa del Zorro&#185 it was a slushy mix.

The footprint picture tells the whole story.

From the top, whatever it was that covered the ground almost looked like snow. As soon as pressure was applied, it was revealed for what it truly was – yucky!

The problem is, this slushy stuff is going to turn my driveway into a skating rink by morning. If I’m lucky, it will have enough surface texture to provide traction. That is not assured.

In a typical year, we’re still a few months away from the last snowfall. In a dreadful year, add another month to that… maybe more.

In my heart-of-hearts, I am pleased the winter hasn’t been awful. I am also suspicious that something big is still to come.

&#185 – Our Spanish speaker, Steffie, is still in Florida with my folks. I think I just wrote “House of Fox” in Spanish. If I’ve written something like, I’d like to make love with your barnyard animals, please let me know asap.

Back To School

When I was a kid, summer meant time off from school. Not so today. I’ve been taking classes at Mississippi State University for five semesters. A week ago, I started the sixth. It goes on through much of the summer.

Am I wrong? Doesn’t the word ‘semester’ imply there are only two?

During the two cooler weather semesters, assignments are due once a week. The summer semester is compact, so now I’ve got assignments due every five days. Even today. Memorial Day, I had two quizzes due.

Making it even tougher is the anticipation of our summer vacation trip to Las Vegas. Before we go, I need to get ahead. I’ve already started by taking a quiz due Friday this afternoon. Tonight, I’m hoping to finish one homework test which is also due Friday.

This semester, one course is on DVD and the other VHS tape. DVD is my preferred medium. Not only is it more portable (I can bring a portable DVD player or laptop) but I can easily watch lectures at double speed. It is much more understandable than you’d imagine. The DVD software I use allows me to watch ‘sped up’ video while correcting the speaker’s pitch. In other words, it doesn’t sound like Donald Duck.

So far, I’m enjoying the summer’s courses – Applied Climatology and Radar Meteorology. Both are courses I know something about – but I will learn more.

Unfortunately, there is one small thing which is driving me crazy. One of my instructors pronounces ‘es’ as ‘ex’. So, escape becomes ‘excape.’ He knows what he’s talking about as far as climatology is concerned, but each time I hear this mangling of the language it’s like scratching chalk on a blackboard.

Look Ma – I’m on Slashdot

I love Slashdot. How could I stay away from a site whose slogan is “News for Nerds. Stuff that matters.”

I am there at least 4-5 times a day, following their links to see the latest in high tech. It is Linux biased in much the way The Catholic Church is Christian biased. But, it’s geek and nerd populated and I share a certain sensibility with many of its habitues (though, unfortunately I no longer share the same generation with them)

Its readers, rapidly responding to the story postings, add insight, insult and everything in between.

What makes Slashdot so effective is its self moderating system which starts limiting what you easily read (you can always get to everything, but probably don’t want to) as users come on and rate the postings. Judging by what I see, there are a lot of people moderating at any given time, though Slashdot only gives you the opportunity to moderate every once in a while. Then, later, the moderations get moderated!

In many ways it is analogous to Google, where your association with others decides your relative importance and where your links appear.

Anyway, I’m writing all this because I finally got a posting of mine on to start a thread. It started this morning, early, when I saw an article in the New York Times about speeding up media (listening at double speed, for instance) and how that is a burgeoning field.

I have used that same technique in my studies at Mississippi State, watching DVD’s at double speed. For me, it’s been very effective. Now, it’s shared with others.

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