Archive for December, 2006
In case you haven’t seen it yet, the latest blog meme going around is “five things people don’t know about you.” Ethan Zuckerman just posted his own list (He ran for president once; who knew.) after being tagged by Rebecca MacKinnon. Well, it’s my turn now, as I’ve been tagged by Angela Stuber of Grassroots.org. This is actually a tough exercise, having been journaling online and blogging for the better part of 12 years now, leaving few stones unturned. For example, I would have included random tidbits like Ethan Zuckerman being my distance cousin, but dammit, I’ve already blogged about that. So here it goes:
1. I’ve been shot at twice; once intentionally and the other not. Okay, I’m already cheating somewhat because those of you who have been reading my website since the late 1990s know that I was shot at in eastern Turkey by a pair of Turkish military police. But what you may not know is that it happened again in Havana in 2001. I was there visiting an urban telecentre and Susanne was shooting footage for a National Geographic documentary. We’d just finished walking through a neighborhood festival when we strolled down a side street. Ahead of us, two men were having an argument, but it didn’t seem serious. Suddenly, one pulled out a machete, the other a gun, and they started chasing each other in circles around the car. The gun went pop pop pop a few times, and I stood there like an idiot, somehow not registering what was going on. Then a nice shopkeep grabbed Susanne and me by our necks and yanked us out of the line of fire. Only then did it sink in that these two guys were really trying to kill each other. A few moments later, unmarked cars zoomed in, and plainclothes policemen had them tossed into the back of the cars faster than you can say “Fidel Castro is recovering nicely.”
2. I have achilles tendon problems because I got scared by a rubber snake. When I was three or four, I got freaked out by a rubber snake at a toy store while shopping for a friend’s birthday gift. At the birthday party, I then saw a similar toy snake on my friend’s carpet, and freaked out yet again. For months I wouldn’t walk on carpets, associating all floor coverings with serpents. My grandfather patiently coaxed me back onto carpets by encouraging me to crawl first, then walking on my tip toes. Problem solved, right? Wrong. Turns out I spent the next ten years walking on the balls of my toes subconsciously when I crossed a carpet, and it caused my achilles tendons to grow improperly when I went through puberty. Ever since then, I’ve had tight achilles tendons that require constant stretching.
3. George W. Bush once gave me a personal cheer. It was early 2001 and I was going for a jog at lunchtime. I was near the Department of Energy and suddenly several policemen came by on motorcycles to block the roads. It was the presidential motorcade. I stood there, the only other person on the city block, and watched the motorcade approach. There were two limos; in the first I thought I saw the president reading a newspaper. But then came the second limo. Bush had his faced pressed against the glass and he was giving me an enthusiastic thumbs up with both hands, mouthing what appeared to be a fratboy-like, “OH YEAH!!!” I waved back, dumbfounded. It was only later back at the gym that I realized he was actually saying “Go Yale!” due to the Yale sweatshirt I was wearing.
4. I was nearly smushed by a drunk driver in high school. My friend Todd Demetriades and I were leaving another friend’s house, and we were talking outside. Todd was getting in his car, standing behind his open door, while I was leaning on my car across the street. Suddenly we saw a sports car racing down the street, heading directly for me and my car. It then swerved at the last minute, clipped Todd’s car, knocking him into the air. The car then spun out and stopped. Todd, miraculously, wasn’t hurt. We ran over to the sports car and yelled at the driver that he nearly killed us. He looked at us blankly, wreaking of beer. “I did?” he said, groggy. “Sorry.” He then hit the gas and raced away. But he was so drunk he just went around the corner and parked his car in front of his house, falling asleep, making it easy for the police to find him.
5. I went to a UN summit wearing eyeliner. In December 2003, I went to the annual National Geographic Channel Christmas party with Susanne. Their parties always had a costume theme, and that year happened to be rock stars. For me, there was only one choice; I went as Dee Snider of Twisted Sister. We spent about an hour plying layers of makeup on my face that evening. Unfortunately, the mojitos at the party were much stronger than any previous year, and I got rather smashed, too ferschnickered to remove said makeup when I got home. Complicating matters was the fact that I was leaving for Geneva that next morning for the UN’s World Summit on the Information Society, and I couldn’t get all the makeup off my face. In particular, the eyeliner was practically tattooed on me, so eventually I had no choice but to give up and get on the plane with traces of Dee still on my face. It didn’t fade for about three days. Lesson learned: if you have to dress up like a rock star before going to a UN summit, dress like John Lennon instead.
So that’s my list of five things you probably didn’t know about me. Now it’s your turn, assuming your name is either David Warlick, Jonny Goldstein, Amanda Congdon, Steve Garfield or John Bracken. Tag – you’re it. -andy
A row of fresh UPS package slips adorn our apartment entrance.
I’ve had it with UPS.
For the last month, Susanne and I have been fighting with UPS over the behavior of our local driver, who refuses to drop packages at our apartment. Normally, when a package is brought to our building, whether it’s UPS, FedEx or the Post Office, they’ll try to contact us using the downstairs intercom. If they can’t reach us, they’ll try again or leave it in front of our door. But for some reason, our local UPS driver doesn’t try to contact us. Five times in a row now, when packages have been sent to us via UPS, the driver simply posts a sticker downstairs saying he tried to contact us, couldn’t reach us, and delivered the package down the street at our complex’s main office. The only problem with this is the sticker always seems to denote a time when we’re at home – and the phone never rings.
At first I thought there was a problem with the call box downstairs, since it took a while for them to add our phone to the system. But I tested it and it worked fine. Then I talked to other people in the building who experienced similar problems. It didn’t seem to matter that we were home; the driver would just put stickers on the door and dump the packages down the street. This may not seem like a big deal, but it’s difficult for Susanne to pick up packages during the day because she’s with the baby, and there are also people with disabilities in our building who lack the mobility to walk half a mile to the office and back.
The first few times it happened I called UPS and complained, and they said it would be resolved, but I should check to be sure our call box worked. It worked fine. By the time it happened the fourth time, Susanne called UPS and said she’d like to make a complaint. The woman she talked to said she was more than welcome to file a complaint, but she should know that the UPS driver might decide to retaliate and refuse to deliver packages altogether, forcing us to drive across town to pick it up at the local UPS center. We couldn’t believe what we were hearing. While the woman wasn’t intentionally trying to make a threat, that’s basically what it was – if we complain, the UPS driver would just make life more difficult for us, without being held accountable for it.
At this point, my mom hears about this and gets in on the act – she was one of the people who sent us a package via UPS. She called them and gave them an earful, and the manager she spoke with said they couldn’t believe a UPS employee would do this. They also promised we’d receive a personal apology via a phone call. So far, nothing. And meanwhile, we continue to get package slips claiming the driver tried to call us, even though we’re home at the time.
From now on, it’s either FedEx or the Postal Service – UPS has lost me as a customer. -andy
The MIT Media Lab has started to post updates about Seymour Papert online. Papert, you may recall, was injured when he was struck by a motorbike in Hanoi. Here’s the updated dated Dec 27:
While still in Intensive Care, Seymour is making progress every day. He has opened his eyes and sees the people around him, but has not yet spoken. He is also able to move his arms, legs, and head. His doctors hope that he will be able to be moved out of Intensive Care soon, but for now, is still not receiving visitors.
Sounds like positive news. Too bad they don’t have an RSS feed for the updates, though. -andy
I remember the first time I saw Flavor Flav of Public Enemy, almost 20 years ago; I was immediately drawn to that clock he had hanging around his neck. (I was actually smacked in the face by his clock in the front row of a Public Enemy concert in 1991, but that’s another story.) At the time it seemed liked an original fashion statement, but I just realized this evening he was actually ripping off the Christmas elf Jingle from the Rankin-Bass TV special, The Year Without a Santa Claus. See for yourself.
And all this time I thought it was Flav who was setting the trend. Poser.
Meanwhile, powerful pop cultural influence emanated from other Rankin Bass cartoons, too.
Rudolph’s Shiny New Year may be the dumbest of all the Rankin Bass xmas specials, but Slash might never have donned that hat if it weren’t for that itinerant brat. And don’t tell me all those islands they visit didn’t have a direct influence on the folks behind Second Life. -andy
Carl Weaver took this pic of me on Tuesday at the planning meeting for DC Media Makers. A local version of Node101 and the Boston Media Makers group, we’re a small, but growing group of DC-area video blogging enthusiasts who want to spread the vlogging gospel. We’re planning to get together twice a month, once for a happy hour and the other for a more formal meeting where we can talk and teach video blogging techniques. We may even create some community-based vlogging projects as well. For more info, please visit the website or join our new discussion group. -andy
Great quote from a post today to the Global Voices discussion group for the summit they just hosted in India last weekend. Kiran Jonnalagadda was talking about the rural information kiosks he runs in India’s Karnataka state, which struggle with electricity and affordable Internet access. Apparently, that’s not the only problem they face, as Kiran tells it:
Among the complaints received by our helpdesk: “Sir, there’s a monkey
swinging from the dish.”
Perhaps the VSAT dish providers have a potential ad campaign on their hands, kinda like that US luggage commercial where the gorilla beats the crap out of a suitcase without destroying it: Our dishes can handle a troupe of macaques better than any other brand. Now that’d be good television. -andy