Tuesday, September 30, 2003

My new digital camera came in the mail this afternoon. It's a Canon A60; a snazzy little 2 megapixel camera. (Sure, I could have gone with higher megapixels, but Benton was picking up the tab, so I needed to keep prices within reason. But a couple of megapix is more than enough for me to do 95% of the stuff I'd want to do with a digital camera at the moment anyway.)

For starters, I decided to subject my two cats to a quick photo shoot just for a test drive. Dizzy is the tuxedo cat; Winston is the chubby orange tabby. Click on either pic to get the full size photo.


The camera also has a nice little video feature that allows you to record as much as three minutes of Quicktime video for use on the Web. So without further ado, here's Dizzy getting ready for his closeup.

So I'll be spending the next few days getting acquainted with my new camera. While I'm in London this upcoming weekend and in Dubai the week after that, I'll be bringing along the camera so I can post photos from the field as quickly as possible... -ac

Monday, September 29, 2003

The harmonic convergence continues... We just got the good news that our Thai Boxing film (see previous blog entry) will be screened at this year's California Independent Film Festival in northern California. Here's the funky bit -- it's also the weekend of November 1! That means our film will be airing simultaneously in four festivals that weekend; pretty wild stuff. It's one of those occasions where I wish we were filthy rich and had access to our own Lear Jet to go festival hopping around the country that weekend. Ah well; attending one festival is better than none. At leat we have sunny Fort Lauderdale to look forward to.

Still no word on whether the film will air on cable or satellite here in the States, even though we've managed to get it aired in about 140 countries already. Of course, dear blogees, you'll be the first to know if we ever get the good news... -ac

Saturday, September 27, 2003

young Thai boxerThe organizers of the Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival have just publicly announced the list of films showing at this year's event. I'm very proud to say that our film Thai Boxing: A Fighting Chance made the cut! My wife Susanne decided to take her life savings and go to Thailand during the summer of 2000, and she spent a month following around a group of Thai boxers with a couple of digital video cameras. Two years later, after many late nights of Final Cut Pro editing on my Mac, we finished the film and managed to sell it to the National Geographic Channel, which has aired it in over 140 countries. We also managed to get Brit actor Jason Statham to do the narration for us, which has probably been a major selling point.

Now, the film will be shown in Ft Lauderdale at 1pm on November 1, and we plan to be there for the showing. Oddly enough, the film will also be showing that same day at the Hawaii International Film Festival in Honolulu, and the same weekend at the First Annual Annapolis Film Fest. Talk about harmonic convergence! Too bad we can't be in all three places at once.... -ac

Friday, September 26, 2003

Given all the fun I've been having over the last few days with this new blog of mine, I've decided to experiment with using Blogger to see if it can be used to publish Benton's Communications-Related Headlines. For most of the last eight years, Headlines was put together by hand-coding the HTML into a text editor - not very pretty stuff. More recently we've used Contribute software to edit the Headlines homepage, but frankly, Contribute isn't very elegant and we spend more time fixing the mistakes it makes when we cut and paste the day's news into the template.

So, despite the fact that today was my day off and I should have been enjoying the lovely autumn weather reading a book on my balcony, instead I hunkered down at my Mac and tried to put together a Blogger template based on Benton's website template. It took me a good four hours to get the damn thing even close to right, but after coming back from a satisfying Mexican dinner tonight, I managed to get the template in basic working order.

So if you go to our Communications-Related Headlines page, the content you see will have actually been added via Blogger Friday evening while watching a well-censored broadcast of Blazing Saddles on TV tonight. For now it's pretty basic stuff, but using a blog service will allow us to post stories with greater ease, and (much more exciting) allow us to start syndicating our news via RSS feeds -- assuming I can get this RSS stuff to work. But hey, I think I'm off to a decent start considering I was a total blog version nary one week ago. So stay tuned over the coming days and weeks, and visit Communications-Related Headlines often. Hopefully my interns and the rest of the Benton staff will take to it like a kitten frolicking in catnip.

Anyway, enough of this computer stuff. Back to Blazing Saddles.... -ac
Setting up this new blog of mine has been pretty straightforward, save the issue of RSS feeds. For those of you who are blog newbies like me, RSS feeds are a way of encoding your content so it can be syndicated on other websites. Simple idea, great way to get more eyeballs coming your way.

The challenge for me is figuring out what on earth I'm doing with RSS. I'm using Blogger to power my blog, and at the moment the service isn't offering an RSS service. Previously, blogger had a premium service that included RSS syndication, but they've discontinued the premium service, yet haven't put RSS into their free service as of yet.

So rather than twiddling my thumbs waiting for Blogger/Google to add the RSS feature, I trolled around the Net to see if there were any free tools for helping you set up an RSS feed. I quickly found a site called Onamap.com, which has a variety of blogging and metadata tools. I followed the directions and added some buttons to my blog (see the right side of the screen) that supposedly link to an RSS feed. I looked at the underlying code of the link and found its descriptions rather limiting, so I made a copy of the code and added more info, such as the name of my blog rather than just the URL. This new info is listed as experimental RSS feed #2.

So, will either of these things allow my site to be syndicated? Honestly I have no clue since I'm still so new at this. So if any reader of this blog with some RSS savvy could test it out and let me know if it's working, I'd be much obliged. You can reach me at acarvin@nospam_benton.org, as always, minus the nospam_, of course.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

So did anyone else catch Arnold Schwarzenegger at the end of Wednesday's debate as he answered questions from the press? When asked by someone about whether he would participate in any more debates, he essentially said no, which isn't exactly news. But he went on to brush off the other debates based on the argument that they received poor Nielsen ratings!

To wit, here's what the gubernator had to say:

"I think as you can see the other debates did wrong--only 1 share ratings, or something like that, but this [debate] is going to have a high rating."

This has to be a first, folks: claiming to use TV ratings to craft your debate participation strategy. Politicians have always pulled from a goody bag of lame excuses as to why they didn't want to participate in debates -- because of the particular format, because they're a waste of time, because you can't equate forensic skills with executive or legislative skills, etc. But because of a lack of Nielsen ratings? Granted, it's Arnold's business to know how well his mug plays when it's aired in some movie for the umpteenth time on USA Network (and I'd bet the average Beltway suit would know what on earth a "1 share" is except for mistaking it for having something to do with Wall Street).

But the fact that Arnold actually used Nielsen ratings as his public excuse for not participating in the debates shows how much he's having a hard time separating his Hollywood persona from his political persona. His penchant for using Terminator-esque one liners isn't exactly helping either.

Let's face it, Arnold's a serious candidate because he's got the political and financial backing to make himself one. But Just because you've got clout and name recognition doesn't necessarily add up to posessing the ability to govern and make executive decisions. Maybe he does, maybe he doesn't. But until he stops talking about his big policy plans in the future tense and gives the public some detail, I'm gonna remain skeptical.

"1 share ratings...." Sheesh. Maybe at his next speech he'll tell a compelling story about a working class Nielsen household or something.... -ac
For those of you who missed the California gubenatorial debate, mazel tov; frankly, you didn't miss that much. Here's how everyone did, summed up in 10 words or less:

Cruz Bustamante: Smart, smug, defensive
Ariana Huffington: Thought she was still a guest on Politically Incorrect
Ahnold: Drop the one-liners and give us some specifics!
Tom McClintock: composed, articulate, but not my cup of tea
Peter Camejo: Background noise
Moderator Stan Statham: Passive beyond comprehension

Fortunately, my wife and I were babysitting for a friend last night, so at least we had a four-month-old to distract us from this chaotic, pre-fabbed shouting match masquerading as a debate. Just don't ask me who actually did more screaming -- the baby or the candidates. It remains a toss-up.... -ac

So our promotion activities for our upcoming E-Government for All conference got off on a not-so-auspicious start, thanks to a hacker who launched a raid against the website around 2am this morning. We're hoping that the site will be live by lunchtime today, but unfortunately that doesn't help all the folks in the last seven hours who've tried to register for the conf and have gotten a dreaded 404 message instead. I suppose if malcontents are going to launch an attack on your meeting, it's better that it's an online meeting and not one in the real world. Sigh.... -ac

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

political compass chart of world leadersEver wonder where you stand politically? I always figured myself to be a regular left-of-center kinda guy, but thanks to a cool little political analysis tool I found on Chris Lehmann's blog, I now know where my politics really stand. The tool I'm referring to is called The Political Compass, and you use it by answering a series of questions on covering variety of political issues and attitudes towards government. You're given a pair of numerical scores ranging from -10 to 10 that cover two spectrums: economic left/right and libertarian/authoritarian. For example, a 0/0 would mean you're smack in the middle -- an economic centrist and neither particularly libertarian nor authoritarian. Or, if you had a -10/10, that would mean you're extremely right-wing, yet extremely libertarian.

So what did I get? According to the Compass, I come in as a -4.75/-7.08. That means I'm pretty much a middle-of-the-road lefty, but I also happen to be more libertarian than most. According to the analysis section of the compass, that puts me closest to, of all people, the Dalai Lama -- only politically speaking of course. I suppose I could be in a lot worse company. :-) Anyway, it's a fun little test and a good way to kill some time while waiting for the California gubenatorial debate to commence.... -ac

Egov4all logo Big news, everyone: today I'd like to publicly announce E-Government for All, a virtual conference on E-Government and the Digital Divide. Sponsored by the Benton Foundation, the NYS Forum and Groupjazz.com, the conference will focus on strategies for supporting e-government that recognize the importance of bridging the digital divide. I mean, if all govt services move online, what's the point if tens of millions of Americans lack Internet access and are functionality illiterate? So if you care about bridging the digital divide, this is the conference for you -- and oh, did I mention that it's free? Sign up now: you won't regret it! -ac

I just bought my tix to fly to London to attend the Commonwealth Network Society Summit on October 6. The meeting will bring together representatives from all over the British Commonwealth to discuss the use of information and communications technology (ICT) for global development. I'll be moderating a session featuring international ICT experts such as Bruno Lanvin from the World Bank's InfoDev program. It'll be a quick trip - in Sunday, out Tuesday - but at least I'll have time to visit my Aussie cousin John, who lives in London, and perhaps attend Yom Kippur services at a local synagogue (nothing worse than arranging business travel over the high holidays). As short as it is, I'm sure it'll be an interesting trip. Stay tuned for up-to-date travel reports....

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Travel alert: it looks like I'll be hitting the road alot over the course of the rest of the year. For some time now, I've been planning to attend the World Summit on the Information Society, a UN gathering of world leaders to discuss strategies to bridge the digital divide. Now it turns out that I'll be going to a pre-conference event in Dubai, organized by the World Summit Awards. The awards will honor the best digital content from around the world, and I'm serving as judge for US nominees. From October 16 to the 21st, I'll be in Dubai taking part in an international jury to review nominees from around the world and select the best ones to take part in an exposition at the summit in Geneva. If all goes well, I hope to pay a brief visit to Oman before the Dubai meeting.

Now it's looking like there's a chance I'll be in London the week before the Dubai meeting at a Commonwealth summit on digital divide issues. It's not definite yet, but it's a strong possibility. Either way, stay tuned to this blogspace to follow my reports from the field. I better brush off my suitcase and get some new batteries for my alarm clock, I guess... -ac

Friday, September 19, 2003

Hurricane Isabel was a strange little lady for the folks here in DC. On Thursday afternoon, the rains and wind were fairly steady, but then they dropped off entirely by 7pm. For the next four hours, nothing happened -- no rain, no wind. It was quite strange to watch the news reports, seeing footage of meteorological mayhem in all directions, but when they got to showing the doppler radar, there was a curious empty quarter between Isabel's bands that managed to hover over DC for hours. It was almost like being in the eye of the storm, even though the eye itself was several hundred miles to the southwest.

Then, by 11pm, Isabel let loose on Dupont Circle. Wind gusts up to 50mph, horizontal rain. You could feel the sliding glass door to our 7th floor balcony bulge as the winds from the south pressed directly into the side of our apartment complex.

The one time I woke up in the middle of the night - around 4am - the rain was still coming down. But when I got up at 8am, the storms had passed. We were left with grim grey skies and a steady 20mph wind that kept our Tibetan prayer flags horizontal in the air.

Susanne and I went for a walk just after 9am. It was still breezy, but the sun was actually trying to break through. Most of the neighborhoods around Dupont Circle had tree branches scattered across the sidewalks and streets. Several tree limbs had sheered off and were being tackled by men with menacing chainsaws. The most dramatic image, though, was the tragic sight of a noble, old oak tree, probably eight feet in circumference at the base, snapped like a twig. Half of the giant tree was planted firmly against the side of the Embassy of Mali and FDR's Dupont Circle House -- an important historic property, to say the least. Across the street, yet another tree had collapsed and consumed two cars, one of which was buried under so much debris you could barely make it out. Amazingly, a third car sat just a foot or two from the other cars with nary a scratch. I guess it was their lucky day. Several Malian families with connections to the embassy stood along the side of the street, scratching their heads and trying to figure out how to start cleaning up the mess. There are probably hundreds of trees down across the entire District, so who knows when city cleanup crews will get to it.

At least it's turned into a beautiful day - sunny, mid-70s, strong breeze. Not the typical federal emergency closure day... -ac

Thursday, September 18, 2003

The skies are darkening and the wind has picked up to a steady 20mph, gusts well above 30, I'd guess. NBC just showed Brian Williams get blown down the street, while a CNN reporter had to lunge at his cameraman and knock him out of the way of a ballistic 2X4. Gotta love live television. -ac
4pm and the rain has stopped. No wind either, though Isabel's clouds are high-tailing it east to west.
NOAA image of hurricane over atlantic oceanSay hello to Isabel, everyone.... It's mid-afternoon on Thursday, August 18 and Hurricane Isabel has just made landfall in the Carolinas. So far, Isabel has messed up my travel plans for the week - was supposed to go to Phoenix this morning for a meeting with community leaders on Benton's new 21st century skills initative - but no dice. The rain has been falling steadily for about two hours now, and it's gone from a pleasant sprinkle to a steady shower. The wind's not so bad -- trees are swaying and the Tibetan prayer flags on our balcony are fluttering. The worst of the storm is expected after sunset tonight and may last through early tomorrow. Time will tell if any of us in DC will be able to go to work tomorrow, but if I were a betting man I'd put my money on the little lady with the counterclockwise spin. Stay dry, everyone... -ac
Andy relaxes by a bungalow in Bali Well folks, here it is. I've been making websites for just about nine years now and have probably a few thousand web pages during that time. But I'm finally taking the big leap forward and setting up my first blog.

Let me rephrase that - my first auto-blog. If you've been to my personal website, Andy Carvin's Waste of Bandwidth, you've seen me write about all sorts of stuff on the Net -- especially my travelogues, probably. But up til now, they've all been done by hand - handcoded into individual html pages and then slapped up online by a good-ole-fashion FTP tool. But starting with this message, I'm finally getting my act together and using an actual blog tool to crank out these cyber missives. Whether this is a short-term noble experiment or a the advent of a longtime hobby, only time will tell.

So with that, here we go. Welcome to Andy Carvin's Waste of Bandwith: The Blog Edition....

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