Sunday, May 25, 2003

Random Thoughts

I'm thinking of writing a book about sleepovers at your sweetheart's apartment. It could be titled: "Who moved my shampoo?"

I came across a pack of people walking their dogs this morning as I exercised in the Arboretum. One of the dogs was an oversized poodle. I felt like taking the pooch aside and gently explaining to him: "You may be the size of a retriever. You may have a big bark. But you're not scaring me because you're still a poodle."



Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Only in Burma

Previously Burma was notable for its cyber cafés without access to the Internet. Now you can access the Internet at cyber cafés provided you submit to the junta's monitoring and restrictions.

The article below is from The Irrawaddy.

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First Internet Cafés Launched

By Naw Seng

May 21, 2003—Two public Internet cafés opened in Rangoon on May 10, offering Burmese without personal computers their first opportunity to access email and the World Wide Web.

Fortune International Group and May Hka Group both opened cybercafés at different locations in Rangoon on the same day, said sources in the capital.

An official from the Fortune International Group said anyone was welcome to visit its café and surf the web. Servers were provided by Bagan Cybertech, the largest provider of information technology in Burma after the government’s own Myanmar Post and Telecommunications.

The Burmese government allowed limited email and Internet access for the first time in 2001. One thousand people with their own computer and modem technology bought government email accounts that year. Private companies, such as Bagan Cybertech, were granted a government concession to sell email accounts in 2002 and have to date sold more than 20,000 accounts, ranging in price from 60,000 (US $60) to over 100,000 kyat for lifetime access.

The new cybercafés are subject to government restrictions on Internet usage. All Internet traffic in Burma passes through government servers, which do not allow patrons to visit sites banned by regime’s censors. "You can access around 10,000 web sites," said a visitor to one of the outlets, who paid 1,000 kyat for one hour online.

"Our cybercafé does not allow to access free email accounts like Hotmail and Yahoo!," said a Fortune official. Bagan Cybertech is planning to sell personal email accounts at both the cafés in the near future. The accounts will cost 10,000 kyat per year.

Some visitors have been annoyed by the registration system at the cafés. "Every person has to register their name, identification number and contact address," said one customer. Fortune International Group responded by saying that customers only have to register on their first visit.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Blogrolling

What blogs and chat boards do you read?

I follow only a few. Life is short and it is not to be lived solely in front of the computer screen. Here are a few sites that interest me.

Pool is the only chat board that I currently care to frequent. It was set up by Karawynn Long who also maintains a personal website, an email journal and a blog. She certainly keeps busy. Her web design skills, writing ability and unrelenting honesty make Karawynn's work quite fascinating.

Pool to me is like Boston; it's big enough to be interesting but small enough to be manageable. There's quite a community spirit amongst the posters. People provide others advice and assistance. A group of us even met up in the Boston-area and found to our pleasure that our on-line discussions translate smoothly to face-to-face conversation.

Paws for thought is brought to you by an old friend of mine, Carol. She publishes links to some of the oddest corners of the web. Back at Loughborough University in 1983, she also introduced me to my future ex-wife. I don't hold that against her.

Allura Ellington produces a website where she spins off impressionistic musings embedded in a smart, professional design. Rove around and enjoy.

Another blog that grabs me is that of Stacey George. I came across Stacey last fall. Her blog is full of well-rendered slices of life delivered with a keen wit.

She recently cut back on her writing because she's dating someone. It's a problem that can affect us all.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Off The Market

Today, I retired my web personal ad. I'd gradually refined it over the past year or so.

The title read: "Bicycle Seeks Fish."

After describing myself as a 38 year old "Buddhist-leaning Unitarian Universalist," I included the following information:

Last great book I read:
I refuse to list just one: 'The Golden Compass' Philip Pullman; 'Culture Jam' Kalle Lasn; 'American Gods' Neil Gaiman; 'Daily Afflictions' Andrew Boyd; 'Pay Attention For Goodness' Sake,' Sylvia Boorstein, and 'Fast Food Nation' Eric Schlosser.

Most humbling moment:
Whenever I meet anyone who has struggled to fight for justice at great personal sacrifice. This is always humbling for someone like myself who has not had to take the same risks.

Favorite on-screen sex scene:
The professor/coed scene from 'The Man Who Fell to Earth.' At one point she wears nothing but her glasses. That image seared itself into my 17-year old memory.

Anything from 'Unbearable Lightness of Being' and 'Sea of Love.'

Celebrity I resemble most:
Hugh Grant (accent & hair)
Philip Seymour Hoffman (build & appearance)

And it wouldn't hurt at all if you resembled in some way Janeane Garofalo, Nicole DeBoer, or Natasha Wagner.

Best (or worst) lie I've ever told:
I always try to tell the truth. That way I can remember what I said.

Song or album that puts me in the mood:
None in particular. Though if I keep endlessly playing Beck's excellent 'Sea Change,' I fear I may never date again.

The five items I can't live without:
meaning, connection, a certain sense of balance in an ever-shifting universe, Woodchuck Granny Smith's Hard Cider, chicken tikka masala

In my bedroom, you'll find:
semi-neat, somewhat sparse and utilitarian decor, many partly-read books and magazines, an FAO Schwartz Airedale Terrier (not life-size), copies of The Nation, American Prospect, New Republic, too many dust bunnies under the bed, and an exercise bike used as a clothes-horse.

Why you should get to know me:
I've spent an inordinate amount of my time over the past ten years on my work. (When your job is saving the world, the to-do list in the morning is a bit daunting.) I am now consciously stepping back a bit to spend more time on myself and those closest to me.

I'm very open to trying new pursuits, especially ones involving exercise, the outdoors, and the arts (particularly good independent film and fiction.)

I'm British, which tends to appeal to American anglophiles. Though you should realize that I'm here because I consider Britain to be quite overrated.

I won't ignore you for sports because I prefer almost anything to watching a ball being tossed around. In any case, I consider sport to be a deviation from the revolutionary struggle. I prefer my opiate in the form of independent movies or Buffy.

I'm broad-minded. I've been in relationships with women who are straight and women who are bi. Both are fine with me; neither is required or expected. (Liking me is obligatory though.)

I've never driven a car in my life. It's mainly due to my laziness and my tightness with money but it's also an environmental virtue. (Hmmm. I may not be selling myself here.)

I earn a decent living and live both debt-free and beneath my means. 'Voluntary Simplicity' appeals greatly to me. However, if I buy you air tickets so that you can accompany me to London, this is a sure sign that I'm smitten.

I like to cook spicy vegetarian (and fish) dishes for using mainly organic foods from the Harvest Coop and recipes from the Moosewood cookbooks and Diet For a Small Planet.

I give good foot-rubs and neck-rubs. I had a purely platonic arrangement with a former co-worker to massage her back with my elbow from time to time. My skills were sufficient to override her embarrassment at our colleagues overhearing her moan: 'Yes. Yes. Right there. Ah! Deeper. Ooh!'

More about who I'm looking for:
I believe beauty comes in all shapes and colors. However, compassion, intelligence, assertiveness, honesty, and a sly and understated wit are key. I'm attracted to that smile on your face and sparkle in your eye that will last your lifetime.

Although having said that I do rule out smokers, fans of Ayn Rand, and anyone born more than once.

I'm looking for someone interested in exploring a long-term partnership with all the trappings. I want to share warm evening-long hugs, heartfelt conversations, giddy celebrations, sad depths, tough questions, and moments of epiphany.

I'd love it if you are artistic or have knowledge of some aspect of music, film, literature, poetry, or art that you'd like to share with me. With a helpful guide, I'm willing to enter new worlds.

'Men don't make passes at girls who wear glasses' - Dorothy Parker. In my case, she was dead wrong. My love of alliteration is matched only by my fondness for goofy geek girls in glasses.

Have you been told you talk a lot? Good. I like that.

I've dashed my heart - twice! - against the rocks of long-distance romance. Please live in the Boston area - preferably within easy access of the T.

It's OK if you have children. I've no interest in having any of my own. However, I have dated women with children before and been reliably informed that I am a good male role model for boys.

I'm looking for mutual chemistry. I understand that it may not be readily apparent from a first meeting. However, if, when the time is right, we just can't stop nuzzling each other's neck, that's probably a good sign.

Monday, May 05, 2003

Beautiful Morning

This morning, as I power-walked around the Arboretum, mist rose from the ponds like smoke from a smouldering forest fire. At one point it almost obscured the sun.

Exercising in the mornings has its compensations.

Yesterday, I confined myself to just two servings at the Bombay Club's all-you-can-eat lunch. That meant restricting my intake of the restaurant's fabulous chicken tikka marsala. That proves I'm serious about dieting. I skipped dinner last night too.

I now stand at 218.5 pounds.

Friday, May 02, 2003

Councilor Peter Billenness

Last night, my father achieved one of his long-time ambitions when he was elected to the Edenbridge Town Council.

It is a very minor elected position. To be a parish councilor from the ward of Edenbridge South and West is to be an unpaid legislator at the lowest level of British local government. One of the more contentious issues tackled by the Council in the past few years has been the placement of additional street lights.

My father ran in a seven-person multi-member ward. Running as the sole Liberal Democrat, he placed sixth with only 19 votes between him and the eighth placed candidate. He won just under 400 votes. Conservative candidates won four of the seats while Labour picked up the other two. Three Conservatives were defeated.

My Dad told me today that it was 51 years since he first ran for election. He estimates this was his 20th attempt to win a seat. In past decades, he has run for seats in local councils, Parliament (both House of Commons and House of Lords), and the European Parliament. He came within a few thousand votes of winning the parliamentary seat of East Grinstead in February 1974. Yesterday was his first success.

I am proud of my father. He has never considered running for any party other than the Liberal Party even though he would have stood a much better chance as a Conservative or Labour candidate. He has always stubbornly stood for his principles and he has never given up. I trust that there is a good deal of him in me.

He joins my mother on the Edenbridge Town Council where she has served one term. Her re-election campaign - and my father's campaign for a higher seat on the Sevenoaks District Council - have been delayed after a Conservative candidate in both races inconsiderately died.

In America, elections are not delayed when candidates die; in fact American voters have elected several dead representatives. However, it is different in Britain so my parents will face the voters again on June 19th.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Intriguing Book

Today I perused a colleague's copy of "Full Frontal PR" by Richard Laermer. The following quote jumped out at me:

"The best people in PR are not PR types at all. They understand they are not censors ... they are the company's best conversationalists. Their job - their craft - is to discern stories the market actually wants to hear, to help journalists write stories that tell the truth, to bring people into conversation rather than protect them from it."
- Doc Searls, The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business As Usual (2000)

After I read that quote, I realized that it described almost uncannily how I work with journalists.

Over the years, I've learned how to pitch a story to the press. It involves taking a story and a set of facts that appeal to a particular journalist or a specific news outlet. Telling the truth - and the whole truth - is mandatory because with the press your credibility is your main currency.

Those points are self-evident to anyone who works with the press. But the idea that this work is essentially a public conversation is a new concept to me. It makes tremendous sense and it intrigues me.

I've found another important book to read.