Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Star Trek DS9: A Much Better Show Than I Thought

(nerdmode on)

When ST:DS9 first came out in 1993, I watched a few episodes and thought it was promising, but then work and other matters got in the way and I missed the rest of the season, and most of the second season. When I caught it again a year-and-a-half later, I was hopelessly lost and just let it go again for a while. I gave it a few more tries over the years and each time I caught an episode I was just more and more lost: Who the hell are the Jem Hadar? What's a Vorta? Worf? How did HE get on there? What's all this religious stuff? I basically just gave up on it.

But thanks to all the episodes being released on DVD and the power of Netflix, I decided to go through the series sequentially one episode at a time. That's 176 episodes on 49 DVDs. I checked out the first disk on March 13 and just finished the last one September 24. That's darn near one episode a day over a half-year period, but I usually went in spurts, sometime watching all four episodes on a disk in single day then going dry for a while (I usually packed several disks on my overseas trips, which came in really handy).

Except for probably six episodes, the whole series was new to me, and after sitting through them all I have to say this: it was a great series and I think a whole lot better than The Next Generation.

The weakness the series had for television was its strength on DVD: long, involved story arcs that reached over multiple episodes or even seasons. This sort of story telling is a problem with television since if you miss one, you were pretty much hosed. But in a DVD environment when you can chug through multiple episodes, it makes it incredibly interesting. In fact, with a DVD setting you want this sort of involvement rather than a 45 minute self-contained episode where everything is wrapped up in the last 5 minutes of the show (which is why the Sopranos is also a great DVD rental).

This format allowed the show to explore some really interesting topics, some of which I thought were very pertinent for today. I thought how the Federation dealt with Bajor was analogous to what we are doing today in Iraq, and the continuous shifting alliances over seven years of several wars was like, well the continuous shifting alliances that are a part of all wars. The series explored religion, personal relationships and other topics I found compelling.

Yeah, there were some episodes that sucked (usually involving Bashir), and they dipped into the "parallel universe" well WAY too many times, but there were some really great episodes: The Visitor (I cried during this episode, but I dare any parent not to), Trials and Tribble-ations (just a great tribute to the original Trek), and Far Beyond the Stars (which was just a great premise) all stick out as some of the best (which sort of goes against what I liked about the show since these are all self-contained episodes).

I'm actually pretty bummed that I'm done with the series. After half a year, I am now wondering what is out there that can keep my attention for another half a year.

(nerdmode off)

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Colonel Sanders Isn't Dead...

...he just moved to South Korea.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Watching Sunrise Move Over the Blogosphere

Here I am in the Korean Air lounge waiting for my plane and reading blogs. The neat thing about blogging overseas is watching sunrise over the U.S. blogosphere. West coast bloggers are fast asleep except for the odd insomniac posting at 2:49am, but the East Coast bloggers are starting to stir, and the early risers are starting to post, coffee in hand. Over the next hour as 6am comes and goes on the East Coast, blogging traffic will pick up considerably in the East. By the time the West Coast bloggers get up and see what news transpired while they slept, the East Coast guys are on their second or third post of the day and thinking about lunch.

Of course the opposite happens in the evening as the West Coast twilight bloggers post while the East Coast guys are fast asleep.

And all this while, we traveling jetlagged travelers post at any and all hours without any discernible pattern.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Or Not So Tough to Go to This Place

Am I noticing a trend in my Korea travels? First the bathroom, now this. All I know is that I am staying away from the second floor of this building. However, "A Merry Making Place" in the basement sounds like a fun and lively establishment.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

You Got to be Tough to Go to this Place

The MAN toilet

My Work Won’t Survive Me, Much Less the Product

I was watching the Oscars a few years ago and they were giving out a lifetime achievement award to some director, praising his “body of work”. A few days later I was watching a documentary and they talked about an artist creating his “masterpiece”.

These two phrases kept ringing in my head for a few days and I started thinking about how, and if, they apply to the modern worker. Do we have a “body of work” or a “masterpiece” we can point to at the end of our careers that will last longer than we do?

The short answer: no. In my case, what marketing professionals create is as transitory as the products we work on. Sure, I have a few articles and publications floating out there in the ether, but the vast majority of what I do day-to-day is forgotten within a year, or certainly by the time the product is obsoleted.

If my “body of work” were put into one location, it would actually be quite volumous - everything including product definitions, roll-out plans, roadmaps, advertising, focus groups, forecasts, several start-up business plans, and lots and lots and lots of PowerPoint presentations (or its predecessor, Harvard Graphics, or its predecessor, Foils). Then there are the gigabytes (terabytes?) of emails I have created in the last 15 years (yes, email existed in 1989. We did it on mainframes). All this work would fill a good sized room, or at least a very, very large hard drive. But no one would give me an award for this body of work, and I certainly can’t find anything in there that anyone else would call a masterpiece.

So are there “bodies of work” and “masterpieces” in business at all? Sure, the bodies of work are the companies you buy stuff from everyday – the “body” being the sum of all the little things that individuals in the company do that contribute to the whole. And the masterpieces are those companies that are successful in providing quality goods and services to consumers while providing returns to investors. So the little things that we do as workers are like brush strokes within the masterpiece, not the masterpiece itself.

The bottom line is that these two artistic ideas are ill-suited for business workers. We workers just have to accept the fact that what we do is transitory and that it will be the company, not our individual work, that will be our legacy.

Oh, I'm Back in Korea

Ah, back in Korea – on the good side of the DMZ. I visited the DMZ last year, so I have looked into one of the two remaining Axis of Evil. I'm not in a hurry to go see the other one.

I’ll start off this trip with a bit of Korea trivia (Korevia?): On the Korean flag above, you probably already recognize the yin-yang in the middle. What you probably didn’t know is that the four symbols surrounding the Yin-Yang represent the four elements: earth, water, fire and air.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Blogrolling Down

If you notice the lack of links at right, it's because Blogrolling keeps going down - once last night and again this morning. If this keeps up I might just have to go manual, which is a pain, but at least reliable.

Update: It's back, obviously. Apparently they changed over to a new server and had "problems".

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Cellphones in Flight - One Technology We Don't Need

Techdirt links to a story of the upcoming ability for people to use cellphones on planes. This is a technology I'm dreading.

Airplanes are the one public place where you have some sort of peace from hearing others yell over their phones. While taxiing on the tarmac or whenever the flight attendant states "you may use your cellphones", half the plane starts yelling into their phones (I always wait until I am in the airport if I have to use my cell - what's a few extra minutes?). Imagine hearing this yelling for hours on end on a long haul flight. And with the engines going full blast, the yelling will be even louder.

In other public places you at least have the ability to get away from the yelling. On a plane, you are in an enclosed tube, and if your seat neighbor starts yelling away on the phone, you have no alternative but to listen. You think the in-flight movie is hard to hear now?

In Japan - a country more cell happy than the U.S. - public forms of transportation are cell-free zones, even if cellphones are usable: subways, trains, Shinkanzen (bullet trains) all have little signs with a cellphone with a "x" through it. If people end up taking calls, they at least go to the restroom areas where they at least don't disturb their neighbors.

I don't think it's too much to ask to keep planes cell-free. What they do need to do is get in-flight internet. Then at least people could do email, browse, or blog without disturbing their neighbors.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

If You Share a Bed, Should You Share a Blog?

I am setting up my blog to give Mrs. Director "guest posting" privileges. (gulp!) My guess is that her posts will be more popular than mine.

I know of a couple of "spousal" bloggers: Calblog's husband posts from time to time, and Accidental Verbosity is a married venture.

Any others out there? Any input on how this works out? Any juicy spousal blog fights to relate? ("It's my blog and you're not posting that crap on there!"). Are there any spousal blogs where the members are on opposite sides of the political isle? (Carville doesn't count if he has a blog).

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Where Were You on 9-11-01?

My wife stood over me shaking me. I had spent the "midnight to 3am shift" doing feedings for my three week old daughter (I didn't breast feed, but my wife pumped), so it was hard to wake me up. I blearally opened my eyes wondering how it was already time to go to the office since I had arranged to come in late during the first few months after my daughter was born.

"Planes have crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon."

"Honey," I answered tiredly, thinking she was making a joke to wake me up,"you're reading too much Tom Clancy."

I looked up at the look in her eyes and saw that she was serious. "What? What happened?"

"They don't know, but they say it is terrorism."

I wondered how terrorists had become pilots of three planes, or how three pilots had turned to terrorism. I hurried downstairs to see the news on. I saw one of the buildings of the World Trade Center, the other one obscured by smoke.

"Wow, there is so much smoke that you can't even see the second building."

"No. No. The second building isn't there."

I sat dumbfounded on the couch. I, like most other Americans, spent a lot of that morning on the couch, going through the various news channels. At one point I sat with my little girl cradled in my arms, wondering what would happen to America, and her future in it.

I actually made it to the office around lunch time, at about the same time as everyone else in my office. Not a lot of work got done as we watched the internet (and I think a TV - I can't remember now) for updates on what was going on.

My bewinderment turned to rage. Those who did this would pay. We would take the fight to them. They would know America's anger and fear our wrath.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Friday, September 03, 2004

Modern Day Immortality Through Mass Mail

When my grandmother died in 1999, I was named the executor of her very modest estate. I closed down her accounts, shut down her few credit cards, paid off her accounts, and cancelled her newspaper and magazine subscriptions. I assigned my address to her estate and had per personal mail forwarded to me so I could correspond with the various banks, credit card companies, and merchants for closing her accounts.

The only thing requiring more than 30 days to wrap up was dumping a worthless piece of undeveloped property in the middle of nowhere. By the middle of 2000 everything was complete. I figured the only thing left of her were my memories of one of the nicest, sweetest little-old-ladies you could ever meet (which is why the first Christmas after her death I literally had to write dozens of responses to Christmas cards, informing people to take her off their yearly list).

Five years after her death I find that she has achieved a sort of modern day immortality through the mass mail system. She receives credit card offers, requests for donations, and even an occasional newsletter from a hospital or charitable organization. Being the kind-hearted woman that she was, she gave modest amounts of money to various charitable organizations even though she was on a fixed income from her pension as a school librarian and her social security. So she became a fixture on the charity mailing lists.

The first few times I received these I wrote quick letters back telling these organizations that she was deceased and to remove her from their mailing lists. The mailings slowed down and then stopped, but six months later new mailings started to show up again. I initially responded to these as well, and things stopped for another year, then new mailings showed up again. I went through this iteration a couple more times, but after a few years I just gave up. It is now a very slow trickle, but half a decade after her death she still gets something addressed to her once or twice a year.

Turns out you not only stay on the mailing lists after you pass on, you get on them before you are able to read. Last night my daughter, who is three years old, received a credit card offer. I figure 100 years from now whoever is handling her estate will still be getting these offers.