Snow day


Snow day
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I woke at at 2.25 am to the sound of what I thought was someone throwing several large trash cans at my house. Lynn is out of town, and I was a little freaked out. But I realize I was hearing the end of a very loud thunderclap. It almost immediately started to hail, which turned to snow. Very pretty. Ben stayed asleep (go figure), only to wake at 4 am and be awake on and off for an hour or more--missing his mom on her brief vacation, I think. The first time he's been awake at 4 am in maybe eight months or more. I can't remember the last time. We woke to a beautiful snowy landscape, though, melting as I write this. (Later in the day, he's dog tired running around his crib saying, "Nap, please. Nap, please. Nap, please." Is he talking to his brain? Testing the phrase out?)

Five Reasons To Get Cancer

Here's a lovely essay written by a Zen Buddhist that largely sums up my reaction to and feelings about cancer. I'd modify his first point, though. My cancer year (1998) was a great year. One of the best of my life. Everyone I knew told me or revealed how much they loved me. We can't control our lives, but we can appreciate the outcomes.

Corduroy Mountain

Today was a snow day. It was clear and crisp and I'd cleared my calendar. With our regular part-time nanny at the house, Lynn and I headed to the local ski area which has a 10-foot base (and they ain't lyin'), and skied for about 80 minutes on blissful corduroy. The grooming was terrific. And I know some folks go in for that powder stuff, but I don't have the skis for it. Corduroy (when it's not frozen and was basically untracked mid-week) was a lot of fun.

It should amaze anyone who knew me before I met Lynn that I ski. And I'm a real skier now. I graduated to blue and mild blacks a couple of years ago. Lynn went to take one more fast run while I headed back to the car, but on the way, I had to do a quick green run for fun. You can tell I'm a skier now because I slipped in one more run and the green run felt practically flat after skiing a very reasonable blue three times.

Bob Barr, Constitutional Hero

I never thought I would write these words: I have great admiration for Bob Barr. Most of his policy positions and his method of campaigning are abhorrent to me. But his out-of-office role as defender of the Bill of Rights is quite remarkable, especially when he stands up in front of Republicans and points out that that party should come after country.

There's a fundamental problem with Bush's stance on his role as executive, and that is that his faithful are (or perhaps were) largely defending him because of a host of reasons mostly related to personal trust or party affiliation, not law or reason. If Clinton had attempted this seizure of power from checks and balances, I'd be dismayed, too, even more so because Clinton was a lawyer, was a scholar.

Here's the key line from Dana Milbank's Washington Post story:

"Whether it's a sitting president when I was an impeachment manager, or a Republican president who has taken liberties with adherence to the law, to me the standard is the same," [Barr] said.

Blog Disclosures

I was quoted in the Wall Street Journal today (free link) in a story about how a number of high-profile bloggers sit on the US advisory board for a startup called Fon which received $21 million in funding from two venture capital firms along with Skype and Google. The article raises the red flag about financial disclosure. The advisory board may receive compensation; they will probably get something, some board members posted, although no dollar amounts or the nature of it has been set.

The issue in the article is that the founder of the firm posted the news Sunday night that his firm had received funding and shortly thereafter positive blog posts appeared by many advisory board members. Most of these people disclosed that they were on the advisory board, but only a couple mentioned that they might receive compensation.

It might seem like a minor issue, but it's not. Bloggers have achieved a standing akin to opinion journalists, and full disclosure avoids their opinion being disregarded later or their credibility threatened when financial ties are disclosed. When you're involved in advising a company that receives millions in financing, then you can't pretend that the company doesn't have plans to become a multi-hundred million dollar company in which case even modest compensation for your early participation by fair-minded founders could become tens of thousands of dollars. I know plenty of people in that position in the dotcom days and more recently where modest help turned into stock which turned into not millions but substantial returns.

The problem, of course, is that it seems like I'm attacking the ethics and intelligence of the folks on the board who didn't disclose. I'd like to say that this issue is still evolving, and that many people find their opinion in greater demand and valued more highly than it had been previously, and thus have been put in a role that they didn't create for themselves. David Weinberger disclosed his possible financial benefit as part of a policy he implemented months ago to make sure that people knew precisely whether he had something at stake in his pronouncements.

I hope this article will raise awareness that bloggers who attempt to write factual coverage with opinion interspersed should consider the same standards of investment or disclosure as those who do so in print. Some of these bloggers, like Mr. Weinberger and Dan Gillmor (both of whom I admire immensely), write and have written for print, making it confusing to readers precisely what their current role is. I don't say that that role needs to be defined, but it does set a higher bar for making clear to an audience whether you have a money bias, even if money doesn't motivate you.

Myself, the only company I have any formal relationship with and any financial interest in is JiWire, a firm that I constantly disclose my ties to on Wi-Fi Networking News. JiWire is a hotspot directory and how-to/product review site that used to sell ads for my Wi-Fi sites, and to which I still retain strong editorial ties. The only reason I accepted any financial dealings with them was because it aligned with my interests in running my site, and it was easily disclosed that I had such dealings. It hasn't prevented me from writing about Wi-Fi, but I never write about hotspot directories for media outlets, and if I quote numbers, I use a variety of directories to pull those numbers together.

If I were to be asked to be on an advisory board, it would have to be a company outside of my typical coverage area, and I would almost certainly require an agreement in which I foreswore all compensation. This is a bummer, of course. What if you could have gotten one share of Google stock for advising them in 2000?

I did give 60 minutes of free advice to Akamai about six months before they were founded, and didn't get anything in return, but it wasn't a quid pro quo situation when I spoke with them! The lesson learned? Either state upfront you want something or that you specifically don't want anything. I'd rather pursue the latter course so that I continue to work as a journalist.

Recommended Internet Services

For quite a long time, I ran my own Web servers, DNS hosts, email servers, and such. I still handle my own Web sites--mostly because of particular tuning needs and scripts and systems I run--but I've offloaded email and DNS and never been less burdened by it.

For email, I use Fastmail.fm, which offers heaps of storage, transfer, and access options--including secure Web, POP, IMAP, and SMTP--at what is a preciously low price. I pay a little over $10 per month to handle a bunch of domains and aliases and a reasonably high volume of email. They have a well-tuned version of SpamAssassin installed that tosses thousands of spams a day and filters a few hundred more that I can review later. (You can fine-tune those parameters, too, to toss more or less or put more in a holding tank.)

They just launched an easier referral program that will put cold, hard credits in my pocket, and this prompted me to mention them. I stopped running my own email over a year ago and have never been happier to not manage my own mail services. I recommended Fastmail.fm to various friends and family who were cast adrift when I shut down my offerings, and it's worked out well for them, too.

For DNS, I swapped over from many services to easyDNS. Great interface, good pricing (not rock bottom, but they answer email promptly and even get on the phone for troubleshooting when necessary), and overall superb service. They, too, have a referral program.

Yes, I'm trolling for referrals, but it's only because I like the services so much that I'll pimp them.