Archive for September, 2003

Check out my new digital camera!

Tuesday, September 30th, 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.

dizzy winston

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

Film Fests Galore!

Monday, September 29th, 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

Heading to the Ft. Lauderdale Film Fest

Saturday, September 27th, 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

Using Blogger for Benton Headlines

Friday, September 26th, 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

Experimenting with RSS Feeds

Friday, September 26th, 2003

(note: this blog was written when I was still using Blogger…)
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.

Arnold at the Debate

Thursday, September 25th, 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

The California Debate in a Nushell

Thursday, September 25th, 2003

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

Andy’s Politics Mapped for Your Convenience

Wednesday, September 24th, 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

Announcing the E-Gov For All Conference

Wednesday, September 24th, 2003

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

Going to London Next Month

Wednesday, September 24th, 2003

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….