Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Trauer um Soul-König James Brown

This is how I found out that James Brown has died. On the front page of the Münchner Merkur that I saw on the free newspaper stand in the airport. I'm actually broken up.

This is probably because I saw the news (without sound) and figured out that Gerald Ford died. That was expected, but honestly, I hadn't been paying attention to the health of James Brown. Literally, I didn't even know he was sick.

It is less that I really loved the music or the man, but more that my best friend from high school really loved him. Part of me being all teary is that I can't call him right away and go get blind drunk on Hennessy with him.

For the moment a shot of whiskey will have to suffice (and boy did that surprise the kid behind the bar - a beer *and* a whiskey. Sweet Gibralter, y'd think I asked for the blood of a virgin.

So here's a toast to James Brown and here's a toast to Dirk, my friend. I missed meeting up with him in my hometown over Thanksgiving and coupled with a month away from familiar things and friend to shoot the shit with, I miss him.
(Oh, and the Munich Airport has free wireless that's better than my dorms' anyday.)

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas Memories

Not mine, mind you. But here's a gallery of children who are scared of Santa.

Praise be to Respectful Insolance for posting this originally. It was a lot funnier than the series of "I insist on saying Merry Christmas and I don't care who is offended" emails from folks I know who are one of the following: a non-practicing Christian, a non-practising Bhuddist and an Atheist.

Monday, December 18, 2006

My name is Skawt

The other night some of the young folks (early 20's every one of them) were having a little party in the common room on our floor. Since the dormitory where we live is all concrete walls and ceilings and the floors are tiled, it's like living in an experimental speaker system at the Bose factory. Knowing I would not be able to sleep, I dropped in. Over the salsa music the Argentinean students were, one girl asks me my name.

"Scott Moore", I reply. She gave me a puzzled look and I thought perhaps the music was too loud or I was being too quiet. "SCOTT MOORE", I repeat. Again a puzzled look, but with a head shake meaning, "I am sorry traveler of the stars, but these vocal sounds you are making don't even sound like language to me". Exasperated, I simply say, "Ich heisse Scott". Here eyes light up and she says, "Oh! Skoht!", but with a very, very short "oh" like everyone else in Germany pronounces my name.

This reminded me of being in Germany last year when I met an old follow in a pub and upon hearing my name pronounced very distinctly, "Scott. Moore. I. haff. never. heard. this. name. before!" Sigh. My name is so common in English, you can't actually google me unless you add "phoom" or "online community" and there's still another Scott Moore who blogs about online community.

So, on a sleepless night, I mulled this over. Is my accent *that* bad? I repeated my name to myself over and over. Then I thanked the fates that I didn't have a roommate who would surely be cowering in a corner wondering why the hairy mad-man was whispering his own name. Then I realized that I pronounce my name with a longer "ah"ish kind of "o" as in dog. Not dohg, but dawg. How very American of me.

Sometimes it's easier to accept what is around you than struggle against it. So from now until I leave, I will be "Skoht", but my friends can call me Skawt.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

How to surf in a landlocked German city in the Winter

Last weekend, as I left the Bavarian National Museum and headed toward the Englisher Garten to eventually get somem Gluhwein to warm me up, I spotted a crowd watching local surfers. In Germany. In December. In the cold (about 40 degrees F) . In the middle of a city in the middle of a land-locked state.
(Click the image to see the video)

If you do a google search on surfing the isar you will find longer videos and better pictures.

Class Picture

Back Row: Don from Chicago (now living in Germany), Me, Joseph from Canada
Middle Row: Suhail from the United Arab Emirates, Aies (sp?) from Greece, Frau Schwalb our teacher, Dan from Rumania
Sitting: Sarena from Italy, Ines from Spain, Roberta from Italy, Sarah fromm the UEA.
Not pictured are Thomas from Spain and Stephano from Switzerland.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Lots of pictures, not many descriptions

Although haven't been typing much, I have been uploading the pictures I take to my flicker account. I haven't been typing descriptions because I haven't found a tool that will allow me to create titles, descriptions and tags for each picture offline and then just batch upload them to flicker. For now, I pull them from the camera onto my laptop and then fromm the laptop, I can upload them (only when I have a fast stable connection) and then I have to go through them while online to change titles, add descriptions.

So, if anyone knows of a tool that let's me add metadata to my photos before I upload them to flicker (and will do it as a batch, not individually through their email service), let me know. In the mean time, enjoy this night shot of the back side of the city hall.

Aw, maw! Do I hafta blog?

Wow, I didn't realize it's been two weeks since I last posted. Basically, it's because I'm too busy getting through my day to have any desire to write. Heck, I still have postcards to write and those are mostly along the lines of "No snow yet. Hope this makes it by New Year's."

So here's the 5 minute catch up. The things that have been taking up most of my time and energy has been schooling, public transportation and food.

I'm not being a super-great student, but I'm improving. I will be far from fluent when we I am done here.

When I am not sitting and doing exercises or practice tests, I'm going fromm one place to another. While the public transportation here is really great (light rail trams, suburban trains, subways and busses every few minutes), it still soaks up time waiting and sitting on the train or taking a tram to the central station so you can take a subway a slightly different direction. and it's not like it's a commuter type train where I can whip out the postcards I haven't written yet or squeeze in some homework. Nope. You just sit or stand in often cramped spaces waiting for your stop.

And finally, food. While there are a gazillion sausage stands because of the christmas markets, bakeries literally on every corner and plenty of places to just grab somem food, finding actual vegetables or fruit at the these places is darn near impossible. I wind up stopping by various small markets every couple of days to buy some water (the tap water at my dorms really is drinkable, but kills the goodness of food when you cook with it), some veggies and some fruit. It seems like I am constanly loaded down with some little this or little that. My first weeks here were trying to build up a decent larder just to cook with: olive oil, salt, pepper, basil a kitchen knife and cutting board.

When I first arrived, I bought somme fresh dates. Not dried dates, but crisp, full dates. I have never eaten fresh dates and I'm not sure why I thought it was a good idea to get a half-kilo of them. After two days of eating fresh dates, I got tired of them and had to figure out what to do with them. I checked the mighty intar-web for recipies and found lots. Lots that would require me to buy all kinds fo spices and such that I would use only once. Instead, I dug into my memories of ordering bacon wrapped dates at a tapas bar and then improvised:

Scott's Use-up-these-fresh-dates-now Recipie
- A couple handfuls of fresh dated (pitted, duh)
- A couple of crisp apples (I used a couple Galas I had)
- A couple of ounces of fatty bacon (or what passes for bacon in germany)
- Roqufort or blue cheese

In a small thick-bottomed sauce pot (the kind issued to students in my dorm), fry the bacon so the fat is all nice and melted. Cut up your dates and apples into slices to they cook quickly. Toss them in with the bacon. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve on to a plate and crumble an ounce ro two of cheese into the mix and let it melt some. Serves one. Besure to eat in a common area where a girl from South Korea can wonder with either awe or disgust at your culinary skills.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Verbs, Verbs, Verbs!

So, I'm at the point, apparently where I have to learn verbs. Remember sometime in grade school learning the past tense of verbs? sink-sank-sunk. drink-drank-drunk. sing-sang-sung. think-thank-thunk. Oh, that's last one isn't right. Well, now you know how I currently sound when speaking to Germans about things that have past.

So I have a list of about 40-50 verbs that simply have to be memorized. It's a good thing I'm not here to goof off. No, that will come on the weekends. Not only does Munich have a Christmas market in nearly every plaza, but there is actually a Medieval-themed Christmas market. This should be entertaining. Be sure to follow the "Deutsch" link so you can check out the photos.

The cemetery of the living

Both the wired and wireless connections at the dorm are spotty and slow. I'm lucky if I make it through a couple of pages of surfing without the connection dropping. Thus, updates here will come in bunches when I plug the laptop into the schools media center connection.

On the morning I arrived late and missed my first class, I walked from my dorm over to a cemetery. I wanted to get to know the neighborhood and it seemed like an interesting destination. When I arrived, I found high brick walls surrounding a park with many trees scattered through out. Most of the headstones or memorials were from the mid-19thC and there were a lot of professors and teachers given high honors after their passing.

The walls had several openings where people were cutting through on their way to other streets. Just about in the middle, ironically, near a the tomb of a child, was a group of mothers with four children between them. As the mothers talked, the children played on the pathway, with each other and with the nearby garbage can. I've noticed that Germans are more free in allowing their children to walk about tethered as soon as they can so it's kinda nice to see really young kids at play in their miniature adult-like fashions.

When I decided to take a shot of the kids, I really was just trying to not get caught and accused of anything unsavory. But look close. I snagged the moment just as two of the boys are pushing the third against the can. I just imagine the little girl in the foreground saying, "that's right boys, rough him up until he hands over all his gummibears".

As I walked through the cemetery towards the path circling the inside, I started seeing the occasional jogger. These weren't any joggers, but out of the half-dozen or so, only two were even close to qualifying as young. Again, it seemed ironic that the old would partake in an activity that is intended to keep one healthy and living longer, if not better, in a place that is a perpetual reminder of the one fate no one can escape. Is it because of that reminder that they are spurred on to jog? Is it out of a sense of defiance? Or is it merely a convenient place to use as a track? It doesn't matter a whole lot. After all, cemeteries are for the living in more than one way.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I have arrived!

Whew! Lots to talk about. No pictures yet, I'm happy to have found a place to plug the laptop in. There is media center on the top floor of the Goethe Institut and while they don't have wireless, they will lend me a cable.

Despite Sunday the 26th being the busiest travel day of the year, I had no problems at all. My friend Amie picked me up at 7:30 and deserves a huge thanks for driving all the way down from Oakland just to drive over to SFO. Anyway, zero traffic along the way and at the airport. I checked in without a hitch, though I was thrown for a loop that United forces you to check in with their machines first. What got me was that I had to use a credit card in order to identify myself to the little machine. This worked even though I didn't buy my ticket. It made me think about the weird ways we are giving up privacy for convenience. had I been allowed to first use my driver's license or my passport, I would feel less uncomfortable about it.

And when I got to security, it was not thrilling to see that the young non-caucasian kid in front of me had his laptop scanned three times, turned on and generally held up while my backpack loaded with computer, camera, CD player, Nintendo DS, cables and batteries went waltzing through. Maybe I've adopted the I'm-really-tired-of-this-so-let's-not-waste-our-time look that I don't get hassled. Then again, it's probably because I'm white.

The flight stunk, but I generally hate being crammed into a tiny little place for hours on end. Even though the flight from Chicago to Munich wasn't full and we were able to swap seats around so I had two instead of one, it still stunk. There are few times in my life that I have wished I was well under 6 feet tall. Flying is usually one of them.

My first day was great, though. I took the subway from the airport to the city center and had little trouble finding the G-I. Once there, I went through an interview and, because they had sent me the entrance exam ahead of time (and I barely got it back to them the Friday before), I got to skip that part. After I was registered, they handed me 500€! Part of it is to cover breakfast and lunch which I expected, but the extra couple hundred just for grins? Sweet!

I turned around and spent part of that when I arrived at my housing. It's a dormitory that is part of another school in the city. As I was checking in, I asked if I could extend my stay by one week. It turns out that my room was available for that time so no problem, I just have to pay. But wait. It's only 16€ per night, so the extra week is about 100€! Double-sweet!

But my luck ran out this morning. I arrived when I was told, in the afternoon, to check where my class was being held. My name wasn't on the list so I asked and they told me. At the correct room is a room with five beautiful young women. I'm thinking I died and went to heaven. But it was not to be! I was in the right room, but at the wrong time. Crap, that means these aren't my classmates. Double-crap! I just missed the first day of my class.

So here I am in the Mediathek (I guess that's a play on words from Library which in German is Bibliothek), trying catch up on whatever work I might have missed and rescheduling my brain to the earlier class schedule. Not that I mind that, really. Having a morning class means I have the entire afternoon to myself rather than having my day broken up by needing to be back at the city center in the middle of the day.

So ending on a few high notes. The work I missed is mostly stuff I know so that's no biggie. And I have the rest of the day free to goof off, get further settled, take some pictures and figure out how to connect to the wifi at the dorm. If so, then I will have a few pictures of a cemetery up later.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Wieder Nach Deutschland!

In an unexpected turn, I am heading back to Germany. I've been taking German language courses at the San Francisco Goethe Institute for just about 2 years. Every year, they have a drawing for a 4 week course to learn German in Germany. Not only did I win the drawing, but it includes the flight, room and board (sans dinners and weekends) for four weeks. I have never won something this big before.

The catch? I have to take it before the end of the year. So I have been making sure my work is squared away and preparing for my trip. Just after Thanksgiving, I will be taking 5 hour classes 5 days a weeek for four weeks in Munich (München). And because I hate flying around the holidays, I am waiting till after Christmas to come home.

Stay tuned to this blog for what will likely be more regular updates. Not having to travel around is changing my packing. Not only will I bring more clothes (such as a suit and an overcoat), but I am also bringing my work laptop so I can write and make photo notations offline and then load it all up when I get internet access. I also picked up some a polarizing lens attachement and a rubber hood -- I will not tolerate anymore glare and reflections when taking pictures in museums. I'm also hoping my cell phone doesn't decide to die the second I arrive, too. Oh yeah, and some German grammar books with explanations in English!

I also have no real plans to travel outside the city much despite many the number of times I have heard "it's only a train ride". My main focus is to study. I want to get the most out of my time in class and the learning center. I'm even taking a workbook for the plane trip to use that time to squeeze in a few more words and practice.

Despite the preparation, it hasn't been feeling quite real yet. But today I got an email from the Goethe Institute in Munich with my placement test. I'll have to set aside 50 minutes to take the test (no cheating!) and send it back to them.

Okay, now it feels real.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Teen Titans Team Up with Dyslexia

Well, sort of. The foundation I work for, the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, scored having an eight page comic featuring the Teen Titans. Actually, they scored it over a month ago, but the comics themselves have just shipped with over a million of the DC Comics youth titles such as JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED #27, LOONEY TUNES #144, SUPERMAN CONFIDENTIAL #1, CARTOON NETWORK ACTION PACK #7, and TEEN TITANS GO! #37.

This is pretty darn cool! is a website that helps kids with learning and attention problems figure out their strengths and how to overcome their weaknesses. It's not just a feel-good site, we've got some very smart people answering kids questions and it's one of the few websites I know of that is COPPA compliant. Let's put that in perspective: COPPA compliant multiplayer games, message boards, picture sharing and blogs for kids 8-12 (ask me about panopticons sometime).

Comics played an important role in Charles Schwab's life. Did you know that he used comic book versions of books to pass literature classes while at Stanford? We've had the opportunity to meet with him and he really feel passionately about using comics to deliver messages to kids with reading problems. This is why the foundation also hooked up with Garfield creator, Jim Davis.

So say you don't want to buy one of DC's Youth comics to check out the special SparkTop Story. No problem! We are hosting the entire comic and a 4 page bonus mini-comic to boot!

The funny thing here is that I didn't know we were hosting it or about the bonus comic until I read it on Marc Sumerak's site. Let's hear it for internal communication! Anyway, Marc is the writer for the comic and I think it's cool that he's promoting it on his site. He did a good job on representing the fear kids have admitting they have trouble reading and how kids with Dyslexia can be successful when they get information in a different way.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Favorite words

Based on a post over at History Hoydens which turned into a post here, someone mentioned their favorite word was now "imperforate". danah boyd named her blog after her favorite word, "apophenia".

You would think that my favorite word would be "phoom" which does not exist in a regular dictionary, but is well-defined in the Urban Dictionary. But it's not my favorite.

My favorite word is "contraindicate". I was introduce to this term by a former housemate, Chris, who was an English major with a Latin minor when we both worked at Logitech's Tech Support. We used it when a first tier support person would be on the verge of recommending a customer reinstall windows because their mouse wouldn't work. "That would be contraindicated." we would say which would confuse them just enough to actually hear a different approach. It was also a nice way for us to say, "that's really stupid" without being lectured to by our managers.

I need to start using it. It's very handy in situations that start off with someone saying, "Hey guys, check this out...." I can stand there with my gin and tonic in hand and say, "Attempting to catch an arrow after drinking a case of PBR would be contraindicated."

After reading "The Life and Works of Guilhelmus Fabricius Hildanus (1560–1634)" Parts one and two, I have a new word to add to my list of favorites: "exarticulate". Not the definition involving one-jointed insect legs, but the one meaning to remove at the joint.

Many people balk at the thought of an amputation without anesthesia, but I know that surgeons of the 16th/17thC worked hard to reduce the pain involved mainly by applying enough pressure to stop blood and pinch nerve (providing some local anesthetic effect) and working as quickly as they could. However, the idea of a 16thC surgeon taking the time to separate the connecting tissue around the bones in the wrist or a knee is new to me. To have that procedure summed up in one word is even better: ex-ar-tic-u-late.

Sadly, the Oxford English Dictionary shows it being written first in 1658 so I can't use it prior to that. But I still can't wait to teach this some seventh graders the next time I present in a middle school.

Not a good start

The other day, I was about to begin writing requirements for a project I've wanted to do for some time. It's a special Welcome Wagon project for the online communty of parents I help foster over at The idea is to alert special volunteers when someone has posted to our board for the very first time who will then be sure no newbie is left behind.

I often start documents by taking previous ones and ripping out the writing, retitling it and then start the work I need. It helps keep my documentaiton format consistent. My initial requirements docs answer these simple questions before we start working on the design: what is the problem, who is impacted by the problem, what's the solution and are there any pitfalls? Well, I grabbed a document about email subscriptions and started tearing it out to leave just the structure.

Then I looked at it again:

I'm going to Community Manager Hell.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

A Woefully Incomplete History of the Treatment of Imperforate Hymen

Here's something that definitely makes my head go phoom. My friend Kalen Hughes at History Hoydens, a blog by historical romance writers, wrote me asking if I knew how an imperforate hymen might have been treated within the last, oh, 500 years. It seems this came up in the comment on her post about how "first time" sex scenes in romance novels often have the guy well past where the hymen actually is before ramming into it like a runaway train.

So here comes the first bit of explanation. I haven't blogged about this, but my hobby is reading up on the history of medicine, specifically, the history of surgery. Even more specifically, the history of surgery, the techniques and social status of surgeons, in 16thC Germany. Someday, I will blog about how I got into this and why I find it interesting. When there is some weird question about how the body and it's various bits were viewed in the past, friends quiz me.

And as they have already learned and you will soon learn, I am not freaked out by any subject. I'll get my warning out of the way now. I will be linking to sites and photographs that feature vaginas because I honestly hate typing and if I can show you a picture of an imperforate hymen, then I will (and I will).

Before we delve into how past surgeons or doctors might have viewed or dealt with imperforate hymens, it's important to demystify the hymen and then clarify what we know now about imperforate hymens.

If you really don't know what a hymen is, just start at the wikipedia entry on hymen. If you think, "I don't need no stinkin' wikipedia", that's fine. The important points here are:

  • The hymen is *outside* the vagina. (And if that's news, they you *do* need the stinkin' wikipedia article.)
  • There is a wide range of configurations (see Illustrations of the hymen in various states), thickness and elasticity. Generally, the hymen becomes thin and elastic with the onset of puberty so there's no tearing or blood during sex, but that's not always so.
  • Because the hymen varies in how much of the vaginal opening it covers and because it is elastic, it's impossible to define what an intact hymen is and so the condition of a hymen is *not* a good indicator of virginity. (Further down, I'll point out some historical cases of women becoming pregnant despite their hymens being "unruptured".)
  • In some women, the hymen does completely cover the vaginal opening. This is known as "imperforate hymen". And contrary to wikipedia's authoritative "1 in 2000" occurrence, according to the article on the "imperforate hymen", the occurrence has been reported from 1 in 1000 to 1 in 10000.

Focusing on the imperforate hymen. Here are some quick notes from that article:

  • "Variations in hymenal anatomy commonly escape diagnosis until the time of menarche". So, even our modern medicos have trouble diagnosing this until a girl has her first period. (In some cases, mucous secretions will collect at birth and cause the imperforate hymen to bulge aiding in identification.
  • Even if an imperforate hymen is detected at birth and unless there is an immediate problem, it's recommended to wait until puberty when the onset of estrogen will help prevent scaring of the tissue when it is surgically cut.
  • When a girl with an imperforate hymen reaches menarche, the menstrual flow will have no where to go. This will cause the hymen to bulge and look bluish. If it goes untreated (it's not an emergency situation), her symptoms will include cyclic lower abdominal pain, menstrual like cramps, pressure on the bladder and rectum. If it remains untreated, her abdomen might also bulge. (See also the emedicine article on Outflow Obstructions and, as promised, pictures). This can go so far as to block the urinary tract and overflow the bladder (which will cause more abdominal pain, pressure on the rectum and vomiting). In the worst cases, fluids can build up and organs can rupture. (See Imperforate hymen as a cause of bladder perforation and intestinal obstruction.)

So now we know *way* more about imperforate hymens than we wanted to know. Let's see what we can find historically. Not as much as I might have hoped.

The 1901 edition of Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine by George M. Gould and Walter L. Pyle there is a fair amount of discussion of cases where pregnancy occurred despite the fact that the hymen was not ruptured. Additionally, there are examples of women who gave birth without rupturing the hymen. There are also examples of hymen so ridged they do not allow penetration, and needed to be removed during labor in order to prevent it from obstructing the birth. Imperforate hymen is mentioned twice:

H. Grey Edwards has seen a case of imperforate hymen which had to be torn through in labor; yet one single act of copulation, even with this obstacle to entrance, sufficed to impregnate.( CHAPTER 1. GENETIC ANOMALIES.

Foucard 15.111 reports a case of retention of urine in a young girl of nineteen, due to accumulation of the menstrual fluid behind an imperforate hymen. (CHAPTER 15. ANOMALOUS TYPES AND INSTANCES OF DISEASE.

The second case fits the cases of outflow obstructions, but the first case where she became pregnant is pretty wild. Something I did not find in the modern medical literature I read so far is if the hymen membrane is porous to sperm. If anyone finds something relating to this, I'd like to know. It's not enough to assume that just because an imperforate hymen can block mucous and menstrual blood that it can block semen.

Hitting up PubMed, I came across an survey of 19thC adolescent gynecology that lists in it's abstract: "A review article in 1891 reported a 10% mortality rate associated with treatment of the imperforate hymen." (The early historical roots of pediatric and adolescent gynecology. Yordan EE, Yordan RA. Journal of pediatric and adolescent gynecology. 1997 Nov;10(4):183-91.)

Hang on a sec. There were enough instances of imperforate hymen prior to 1891 that someone could estimate a mortality rate? I will want a copy of this full article so I can read that 1891 report to see under what circumstances the surgery on the imperforate hymen was performed. (Ignore the fact that I am more curious about the possible rate of incidence than I am about mortality -- I'm used to reading about the 16thC when you were lucky if a procedure had a 50% mortality rate). I'm curious to know how many cases, what age the girls were when treated and if there are any hints about the complications that might have caused death.

Unfortunately, after this, the trail grows cold for me. Obstetrics and gynecology are not areas where I have chosen to buy books so I need some encouragement to keep researching this.

Thinking it through (often unwise without actual documentation)....

Gould and Pyle make references to stories of hymens that prevented actual coital penetration (and yet pregnancy occurred) back to the 16th and early 17thC (citing Fabricius Hildanus and William Harvey among many others). Also, it seems that depending on the nature of the hymen at the time of labor, it would either rupture during labor or it would need to be cut if it was too "fibrous" (thick and inelastic).

Knowing that surgeons of the early modern period did not hesitate to apply the knife, especially if what they were facing was not typical or ideal, I'll hypothesize that faced with an imperforate hymen, especially when it is blocking menstrual flow or obstructing a normal birth the surgeon or midwife would have simply cut it with a knife. What I cannot guess at is how much they would have cut (a single slit or circumscribe the opening) or what, if any, after care would have followed and how that might have changed with the increased understanding of circulation (William Harvey, 1628) and staunching post-partum hemmoraging.

If anyone has resources or is willing to add to the research on this topic, please add a comment. I find these specific questions interesting because they require taking into consideration societies view of the body, common medical knowledge at the moment and learning what we really know about the condition.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

SecondLife for Nonprofits - Two Mixed Reality Events

Two seperate groups inspired by the Net Squared gathering of web innovators who promote social change are holding back-to-back events to discuss the potential of nonprofits making effective use of the virtual world platform, SecondLife.

Both are on July 18, 2006. Both take place partially inside SecondLife at the TechSoup online meeting space. BUT they each will be holding a simultaneous meeting in the physical world with video and audio being passed between the online and phsycial meeting spaces so both sets of participants can see and hear each other.

First up on July 18 at 3:30pm Pacific/6:30pm Eastern, the Ethos Roundtable will feature an introduction to Second Life. John Lester, Community Manager at Linden Lab, (the company that created and runs Second Life), will present a tour of this online community including how Second Life can be used for educational and non-profit work. John will have slides and also give an in-world demo to show you how Second Life works.

Ethos Roundtable event physical location:
77 Huron Avenue (Yahoo!Maps)
Cambridge, MA

Soon after that at 6:30pm Pacific/9:30pm Eastern, TechSoup will present on how nonprofits can effectively use SecondLife. Susan Tenby, Online Community Manager of, and Jeska Dzwigalski, Community Manager at Linden Lab will also present a tour of this online community, including TechSoup's satellite office and demo a directory of nonprofit organizations in the Second Life world. The event will feature a number of guest speakers from organizations who are actively working in the Second Life community to better achieve their organization's missions.

I'll be attending the TechSoup event in both the physical and online sense. I'm easy to spot in SecondLife as I made my avatar look like me (though avatar customization hasn't quite caught up with my actual beard growth).

TechSoup event physical location:
Net^2 HQ
322 Ritch St. 2nd Floor (Yahoo!Maps)
San Francisco, CA

BOTH events take place online in the same online location. Go directly to the TechSoup area in SecondLife by following this SLurl:

To ensure smooth operation of the online event, the organizers will restrict the TechSoup space to 50 members, and they will allow those in on a first-come-first-serve basis. Arrive early to secure your spot.

You will need to download (25-50MB) and register (free) for SecondLife to visit the online location. I strongly recommend you make sure you can run SecondLife early as it has some fairly strict system requirements.

Once you get started, take a look at the SecondLife Wiki for some more info on how to operate SecondLife. (Or just hit o get the chat input and start asking people for help.)

Also read what some nonprofits, innovators and activists are doing in SecondLife.

Other folks who blogged recently about nonprofits in SecondLife:

Non-profits in Second Life at Omidyar Network

Nonprofit Life in Second Life at Spare Change

Announcing the TechSoup Second Life Event: July 18th at 6:00 PM PST at Beth's Blog

Second Life for Nonprofits at sufolla - community weavers

Tech Soup to offer mixed reality event in person and in second life at Second Life Library 2.0

Monday, May 08, 2006

Are you drinking the Metaverse Kool-Aid?

Over the past year, I've been encountering more and more people enthusiastic about the potential of a Metaverse in the vein of Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. Today, we have the Metaverse Roadmap project and an Open Source Metaverse Project. Break out the Kool-Aid because it's deja-vu all over again.

I first read Snow Crash 10 years ago as required reading for working on VZones (nee WorldsAway) and, at the time, I was struck by the dystopia that Stephenson develops in contrast to his Mardi Gras vision of the Metaverse. I was particularly mindful that what made the virtual world so alluring was that the physical world was such a economic, political and social mess. It seemed to me that people in the novel entering the Metaverse were seeking something the bleak logo-festooned burbclave reality could not offer, whether it was entertainment/distraction or connection/contacts. It was in a very palpable way a Hyperreality - an idealized imitation or simulation of reality that, through it's simulation, is better than the real thing. Disney's Main Street USA is a hyperreal vision of America. Historical reenactment is a hyperreal vision of history.

After the most recent Game Developers Conference, I felt the urge to pick up Snow Crash once again, just to see if perhaps the years had added additional layers to my view that the Metaverse was not a practical vision for wide-reaching socialization technology. I can say that the years did little to change my view. If anything, the intervening years of text messaging, blackberries, and other mobile connectivity devices that are incapable of rendering 3d polygons, but are great at simply and quickly connecting people reinforce my opinion that modeling after the Metaverse as technology, tends to blind folks to the social implications.

In other words, regardless if you want to bring people together online for economic reasons, political reasons, cultural reasons or social reasons, don't be distracted by blue technology such that you forget why you are doing it in the first place.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I could use your help with a design

So I actually convinced my foundation that getting public feedback on designs is a good idea.

It's not an earth-shattering feature. It's just some functionality to help one registered member of a site send their email address to another registered member.

See, families of kids with learning and attention problems face more than just educational and emotional or social challenges. They are often in conflict with schools, sometimes with spouses and sometimes defending their children from law enforcement or child protective services. Any of these can lead to court, but even before then, parents are very very concerned that their lives will be *too* exposed. Over 2/3rds of our registered members have chosen to *not* display their email on their public profile. 'Nuff said.

So given that parents generally know each other only by their screen names, how can I help them make a better contact so they can have private conversations with other parents?

Before you even ask, private messaging is not one of our options.

The main reason we aren't opening up PM is that we don't want to host all those messages. Harassment, illegal behavior and all sorts of problems can occur via PM and to avoid having our time sucked up by hearsay arguments, we should keep a record of every PM and *that* opens us up to a lot of responsibility that our small shop just can't handle.

Another reason is that I am blissfully free trying to pump up our site traffic. My goals are measured in lives affected so I don't have to inflate traffic. If two people meet and go off into email to work out problems, great stuff.

So the challenge is to limit the interaction, give control over the personal information and the interactions to the members and minimize the ability to break it for nefarious purposes. Here's where my community minded friends come in.

I would really appreciate it if you could take some time to look at the design I am working on and offer your insight and feedback. Have I plugged the holes? Are there more elegant ways of handling this? Take a look at my Parent to Parent Email Exchange Design.

You can comment here, email me or join our parents in the discussion where they are offering their views something to be built for their needs.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Fight Machine!

Just for fun: Fight Machine!

As you can see, the first opponents I entered have been influenced by my past three months of reading a heavy dose of skeptic blogs such as Respectful Insolence (a.k.a. "Orac Knows"), The Millenium Project, Skeptico, Bad Astronomy Blog and A Photon in the Darkness.

And what's funny about being so deep into reading skeptical writers is that I spend much of my time reading about 16th Century medical beliefs and surgical practices such as bloodletting and the four humors, cupping, herbal remedies, astrology and, hey let's not forget, uroscopy. (Sorry no link for astrology, I was trying to find a 16thC image of a bloodletting chart.) All of these survive today in some form or another as alternative therapies or as we now know to call them, quack medicines.

So I enjoy delving into the 16thC mind and have mixed up a few herbal wound salves to make 7th graders wrinkle their noses (egg yolks, rose oil, turpintine - which of course comes from a gum resin disolved in brandy) and even learned to use glass cups. And while I have learned how some of these practices had some beneficial (if slight and then misunderstood) effect which might prove interesting today such as using leeches for modern microsurgery, I'm not in the least fooled into thinking that understanding of the world 500 years ago was some how more reliable than what we are capable of knowing today.

So back to the fight.... the Quacks lose.